Cashless Restaurants Show the High Cost of Being Unbanked

by Ben Jackson 0

Several restaurants have experimented with going cashless, according to The New York Times, but they have run into customer concerns. One of them is whether or not the poor and unbanked would be able to eat in the restaurant.

The poor and unbanked are a concern for Sweetgreen, Mr. Neman said. Should the experiment move toward a companywide policy, Sweetgreen is considering solutions to make its products available to those without credit or debit cards. One potential answer is to install gift card machines in select stores where customers could pay cash for Sweetgreen cards, he said.

Once again, prepaid cards – even closed-loop ones – show their value to people who cannot access the financial mainstream. But imagine the customer who does not have access to credit or debit cards – do they get marked with a scarlet ‘U’ any time that they walk into the restaurant? Perhaps more to the point, why should cash customers be forced to take extra steps that not every customer needs to take. These customers are less likely to patronize the restaurant just because their wait time has been inflated because of their choice of payment.

It could be that the hip and trendy restaurants are just as happy not to have cash-paying guttersnipes darken their doors in the first place. As restaurants and retailers consider what kinds of payments they choose to accept, they will need to consider what implicit messages those choices send.

Overview by Ben Jackson, Director, Prepaid Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group

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