When The Cash Register Doesn't Take Cash A handful of restaurants around the country are giving up on cash. Paying for your meal with a credit card or electronically makes for better and faster service, they say.
NPR logo

When The Cash Register Doesn't Take Cash

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/575056358/576413525" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
When The Cash Register Doesn't Take Cash

When The Cash Register Doesn't Take Cash

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/575056358/576413525" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some of us know from personal experience it is now possible to go days, weeks, even months without ever paying for anything in cash. More and more people pay for everything with a card or an app on their phones. In Philadelphia, that trend has led some restaurants to stop taking cash at all. Aaron Moselle reports from our member station WHYY.

AARON MOSELLE, BYLINE: It's a sleepy morning at Bluestone Lane cafe in downtown Philly. A few customers are sitting. But most of them are in line to grab a latte and light snack before work.

SAM FOOTE: I got the banana toast. It's really good.

MOSELLE: Sam Foote is a Bluestone regular. He's a social worker in the same office building. So it's convenient. He also likes knowing it's cash free because he almost never has cash.

FOOTE: I can't remember the last time I took out cash - probably, like, a few weeks ago, a month ago maybe, something like that. And it was, like, to give money to my father, I think, who, like, doesn't have Venmo.

MOSELLE: Venmo is a popular mobile app that links to your bank account. General Manager Erica Ritchie says not having to handle cash is easier for her, too.

ERICA RITCHIE: At the end of the day, not having to count out a drawer, worry about change. Someone runs out of quarters, you're running to the bank.

MOSELLE: Bluestone went cashless last fall. A big reason, nearly 90 percent of customers were like Sam Foote, they never paid in cash. Bluestone's founder and CEO Nick Stone also says lines move faster when employees don't have to make change.

NICK STONE: We're talking about someone ordering and paying roughly in 40 seconds, versus with cash, which is around a minute.

MOSELLE: Stone says shaving that kind of time doesn't make him more money. His bottom line has actually increased because he's paying more debit and credit card fees. He does think it's better customer service. Ben Fileccia is president of Philadelphia's chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. He says people are also using cash less often at more expensive restaurants.

BEN FILECCIA: Going back 20 years, I would say 30 percent of your revenue would come in through cash, 70 percent would come in through credit cards. In my past few years, I would say that number has dropped to 5 to 10 percent.

MOSELLE: Still, Fileccia says cash will never completely disappear from the food scene.

FILECCIA: You know, we see a lot of guests that will pay for a meal with a credit card but will always leave a cash tip. And I think people like doing that. People like palming a bartender a 20 or palming their server a 10 or palming the busboy a couple of bucks.

MOSELLE: Fileccia says there are also people who use cash to keep their meal off the books, say, if they're having an affair. A 2017 report from Cardtronics, billed as the world's largest ATM owner, finds that while people are paying with cards more, the paper stuff is still the most popular, especially when something costs less than $20 dollars. Cash, the study concludes, has carved a durable, enduring bond with consumers.

For NPR News, I'm Aaron Moselle in Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.