Sweetgreen restaurant chain is in the “fast casual” category, serving up healthy food choices.  What isn’t on the menu is… cash.  In 2017, they stopped taking cash at 64 locations.  They are not alone.  Cashless retailers are growing, especially in the restaurant category.

Sweetgreen says it speeds up transactions by as much as 15%.  Employees touching cash and then handling food is not only a hygiene and food safety issue, but putting on gloves and taking them off takes time.  The biggest complaint the restaurant says it gets is about time-in-line, so reducing that wait is a big plus.

People are more open to the idea than you might think.  Civic Science surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults on this topic.  64% said going cashless would have no impact on their decision to go to their favorite restaurant. Another 10% said they would go there more often.


Not For All Restaurants, Though

Fast food chains, though, need to tread lightly here.  According to the Civic Science poll, the people most likely to go to fast food restaurants are not big fans.  42% of those who frequent Quick Serve Restaurants say they would stop going altogether, or go less, if the restaurant switches to cashless.

Sweetgreen says they save time counting cash on each shift and save the time/cost of moving cash to the bank.  They also believe no cash on hand reduces the likelihood of robberies and eliminates employees skimming out of the till.

You may wonder why a place would want to turn away customers that want to pay with cash, but the company reports less than 10% of its sales currently come from cash anyway.  That’s down from 40% when it opened the chain 9 years ago.

No law forcing business to take cash

Sweetgreen isn’t getting rid of cash at its Boston location.  State law doesn’t allow that there.  But, despite what you may think, there’s no federal law forcing businesses to accept cash.  Yes, bills say “This note is legal tender for all debts public and private.”


But a purchase is not a debt.

Here’s what the Federal Reserve says about this:

“United States coins and currency [including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks] are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.

This statute means that all United States money as identified above is a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.” – Federal Reserve