You can fit most restaurants into one of three categories: big franchises that rely a lot on name recognition and familiar recipes, fancy restaurants that serve gourmet food, and local diners and cafés where the meals aren’t fancy but the chefs take real pride in what they make. Franchises have taken credit and debit cards for years thanks to a high customer volume and fancy spots do the same because their meals are expensive, but for decades many diners have been “cash only” establishments. However, that’s all starting to change.
Back when credit cards were new, it made sense for diners to stick with cash payments. Checks could take days to clear with the banks, and back before the internet and magnetic strips a credit card could take just as long. The restaurant would also have to pay a fee to the credit card company and the processing company, and often enough those would take a big piece out of the check for a low-cost meal. Diners would ask for cash only because it meant they’d definitely get their money and none of it would go to a transaction fee.
However, the times are changing, and with it are the ways people pay for food. There are a number of good reasons for cash-only restaurants to start accepting plastic and electronic payments, and they are growing:
- Plastic and smartphone wallet payments only take a few seconds to process, and so many people (especially Millennials) have stopped carrying large amounts of cash around with them, and some have no paper money on them at all. If a restaurant asks for cash, they’ll eat somewhere else.
- Transaction fees are much smaller than they used to be since companies get many more transactions per day and each one has become very easy to perform. Fees are now often based on a percentage, so they won’t cut into a diner’s profit margins.
- Because people tend to carry less cash around, they don’t spend as much when they use it. They become more willing to spend when they can do so directly from their checking or credit accounts. This willingness means that your business can still grow even if you have to raise prices to cover the transaction fees.
The cash-only model has worked for local restaurants for decades, but cash is starting to go out of style even for tiny transactions like buying a pack of gum or grabbing a cup of coffee. If your café only takes cash right now, you’re losing a lot of potential customers to the diner down the street.