Cashless Shake Shack Leaves Some Diners Hungry

by Raymond Pucci 0


Shake Shack’s cash-free experiment with one of its New York City locations has proven unappetizing for some of its customers. As the following article from Eater reports, the burger shop announced it is ending its payment experiment as some diners said they could only use cash.

Fast-casual burger chain Shake Shack is axing its plans to go cashless after receiving complaints from customers wishing to pay with legal tender. The company will begin adding cashiers at its cashless kiosk restaurants, according to Market Insider, ending a short-lived experiment of only accepting cards some locations.

The company rolled out its first cash-free kiosk location at Astor Place in the East Village last fall. Instead of cashiers, the restaurant featured “hospitality champs” whose job was to assist customers in navigating the new ordering technology; in a press release, the chain called the move one that “demonstrates Shake Shack’s commitment to digital hospitality.”

But diners, it appears, have revolted. “In the first rollout at Astor Place, we did not accept cash at all, and there are people who have told us very clearly ‘we want to pay with cash,’’ Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told stock market analysts of the decision. “So in this next phase, we’re going to go ahead and have cashiers as well as kiosks.”

Many restaurant groups are moving in the direction of only accepting cards, and Shake Shack’s adoption of the practice seemed to signal the tide was moving more toward cashless restaurants. Proponents of the model say that it reduces transaction times (something Eater NY critic Robert Sietsema observed during a visit to the Astor Place Shake Shack last fall) and reduces labor costs because employees don’t have to collect, count, record, and deposit money.

Refusing to accept cash is not technically illegal in the U.S. (with the exception of businesses in Massachusetts), but the cashless policy seemed to run counter to founder Danny Meyer’s famous business philosophy.

On one hand, this is very positive news for Shake Shack. It shows that its customers cannot do without its ShackBurgers and Shack-cago (get it?) Dogs. With all the other burger offerings around in Manhattan that accept cash, there are people who can’t do without their Shake Shack fix. So they have convinced the Shack to end the cash-only experiment. It’s somewhat surprising that urban transit agencies have transitioned people away from cash, but yet fast food cannot. Maybe these food shops could have the kiosks take cash to pay for orders or to sell prepaid cards. That would be another way to save time for the counter staff when taking cash and making a change. In any case, Shake Shack tried a worthy experiment, but at least it found out who are its loyal customers.

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