Cashless? Does it make sense for your restaurant?

The good and bad of going cashless.

Are you ready to banish the bills and spare the spare change? Many restaurants have already made the move to reduce friction.

Fast casual chain sweetgreen went cashless in 2017 and CNBC reported that Shake Shack is testing a cashless, kiosk-only store.  Restaurant Hospitality, reported that the cashless trend is more prevalent among smaller chains and newer restaurants that are cashless from day one.

Even Amazon is in on the trend. “Amazon Go” is a convenience store without cashiers or checkout lines. Your phone is automatically charged as you exit the store for the items that you have selected.

There are as many opinions on Cashless as there are menu items.

Here’s how we’re thinking about it at PAR in our restaurant POS software group. If many brands and stores are considering going cashless now, and weighing the options, then there is a strong argument for the inevitability of it. At some point in the future, two years to five years out, we will all be cashless. Even now, the pros outweigh the cons.


Particularly for quick-service restaurants, going cashless speeds up the line during packed lunch rushes and diminishes the wait for your customers. (up to 15% at Sweetgreens)

Cashless means no more waiting while change is counted out by the cashier or waiting while a guest finds the right change in a wallet or purse. No more waiting for the cashier to get more quarters or pennies, which also reduces the time of other staff who have to stop what they are doing and open up a register.

Ordering and food delivery will be streamlined, because the cash handling touchpoints are completely removed from the food ordering/delivery process.

Cashless potentially leads to faster, more efficient and safe drive-throughs. Guests don’t fumble with bills and coins while trying to drive and accept food through the driver-side window.

Less waiting in line will equate to higher guest satisfaction, and perhaps that means they will spend more as a result.

Loss Prevention and Accuracy

When there is no money in the “cashless” registers, there is nothing for a robber to demand. They will see the sign “No cash kept on-premises,” and move on to the next target.

Cashless means no more $20 dollar bill scams or stopping cashier flow to mark a bill.


Productivity advantages abound. Going cashless means that it’s easier to close out cashiers at the end of a shift. No more cash differences or time spent researching material cash outages that occasionally happen.

Another advantage will be in smaller stores, where staff who double in food prep and cashiering won’t have to remove or put on gloves to handle cash.

And the store manager is no longer making a nightly bank deposit, or arranging for the interruption of armored car deliveries and pick up.

In this all-digital environment, bookkeeping will become much simpler. There is only one source of revenue, even though it might be split among smartphones, credit cards, and debit card payment methods.

Food Safety

You don’t know where your customer has been prior to entering your restaurant or retail food establishment, and you certainly can’t track where those bills and coins have been.

Research at the National Institutes of Health shows that bills and coins constitute a public health risk when associated with food preparation: “Banknotes recovered from hospitals may be highly contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus. Salmonella species, Escherichia coli and S. aureus are commonly isolated from banknotes from food outlets. Laboratory simulations revealed that methicillin-resistant S. aureus can easily survive on coins, whereas E. coli, Salmonella species and viruses, including human influenza virus, Norovirus, Rhinovirus, hepatitis A virus, and Rotavirus, can be transmitted through hand contact.” (NIH, NCBI, 2014)

You definitely don’t want any of that near your food! Cross-contamination will be much better managed in a cashless environment. Not to mention customers won’t have to touch the pin pad on the credit card machine anymore, too which is also covered in germs.

Cashless Cons

You might have a certain older demographic who will insist on cash transactions. There may also be young people and impoverished who don’t qualify for a bank card or own a mobile phone with payment apps.

There may be some legal issues, especially at the state level. The Federal Government allows private companies to choose their own guidelines on cash and coin acceptance. Some states, like Massachusetts, are standing up for the digital holdouts.

However, both of these cons should improve over time in the near future.

Here’s something else to consider. Is your store prepared for the faster throughput at each meal? When people wait in the cashier line less, they end up standing around and waiting for their food. This creates a logjam and confusion with orders.

Back in 2017, Starbucks started to experience this with their online ordering customers. The pickup counter started to get jammed and was causing the flow of the restaurant to be cluttered. Since they knew this was going to be a growing trend, they decided to give a lot of their stores a makeover to ensure this process ran smoothly for not only their pickup customers but their in-store customers as well.

Complete POS Software Solutions

Whether you are already cashless or thinking about it, the PAR Partner Ecosystem is designed to collaborate with a wide variety of solution providers including channel, integration, food safety software and alliance partners as well as providing integrated and tested enhancements to our PAR product offerings. By working closely with these partners, we can provide innovative solutions to customers’ business needs while improving customer support and reducing the total cost of ownership for our customers.

Brink POS Software

*Content updated March 7, 2019.