Fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen is experimenting with not accepting cash at several of its locations.
What started as an experiment back in January may be a move the company decides to stick with. According to The New York Times, Sweetgreen has seen its cash purchases decline to less than 10 percent across its 48 locations in the U.S.
“One of the biggest complaints at Sweetgreen is the line, so by reducing cash, we’re able to serve customers a lot faster,” Jonathan Neman, the company’s cofounder and co-CEO, explained. Neman confirmed that employees are able to perform 5–15 percent more transactions per hour at the restaurant locations that no longer accept cash payments.
The company said that having a cash-free environment also allows employees to be safer, since going cashless has deterred thefts and robberies.
Research has shown that consumers who pay with cash typically spend less and assign a higher value to the purchases they make.
A new study by Avni M. Shah, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people paying for items in cash associate more of a “sting” to the transaction, thus becoming more invested in the purchase and emotionally attached to the item they purchased.
Conversely, Shah found that people who made their purchases via a credit card tended to value those transactions or items less.
“While the convenience of going cashless is undeniable, it comes with an inadvertent downside — we tend to value purchases less when using a card than when we pay via the more ‘painful’ methods of cash or check,” Shah wrote in the findings of her study.
But there have been challenges in eliminating the acceptance of cash.
Though many consumers today opt for plastic cards or mobile apps for their purchases, there are still many who rely solely on cash. In a cashless environment, the poor and underbanked face exclusion.
Neman said Sweetgreen is open to options that will still allow those without credit or debit cards to make purchases at its restaurants, such as installing gift card machines in select stores, where cash can be used to buy Sweetgreen cards.
“Sweetgreen is very emblematic of the future of the fast-casual industry,” Sam Oches, editor of QSR, said of the company’s decision to try out a cash-free POS. “If anyone is going to make this work, it’d be them.”