At some point in time, you’ve probably visited a restaurant prepared to pay by card, and felt displeased to find out the establishment is cash-only. When Sweetgreen was founded in 2007, the fast-casual restaurant only accepted cash for a taste of their somewhat pricey salads. In 2016, the chain kicked the United States currency completely to the curb – rebranding itself as a cash-free establishment. However, by the end of 2019, Sweetgreen announced that all of its 94 locations will accept cash and credit cards. So why all these changes?
The restaurant’s co-founder, Nicholas Jammet, originally ditched its traditional cash-only model with the hope of bringing in younger customers who favor paying by card. Furthermore, going cashless would also help to eliminate robberies and speed up service in general. Other successful fast casual restaurants, like Dos Toros and Dig Inn, have also cited similar reasons for going cashless — Jammet isn’t alone. However, Sweetgreen’s choice to go cashless was met with some serious backlash.
Not Everyone Has a Credit or Bank Card
Many argue that a cash-free restaurants discriminate against those who don’t qualify for a bank account or have a credit card. Legislators agree too. In February, the city of Philadelphia passed a bill banning all cashless restaurants (several other cities like San Francisco and New York have proposed these bans, too). At that time, Sweetgreen had six locations in Philadelphia, all of which were forced to accept cash once more. Philadelphia’s ban catalyzed Sweetgreen’s transition back to accepting cash, and by this year, all their locations will accept both cash and credit cards.
On Sweetgreen’s cashfree past, co-founder Jammet remarks that, “as a business, we are in a very different place.” The chain is now going through the process of testing out and installing cash registers and recruiting armored vehicles to pick up their new upcoming influx of cash. And Sweetgreen is continuing to work towards accommodating all forms of payment.
But will Sweetgreen’s acceptance of both cash and credit cards have a significant impact? Not really. The chain estimates that only 5% of customers will use cash to pay for their salads. In addition to revising its payment methods, Sweetgreen expects to grow to 110 stores by the end of the year. While the argument of cash versus card remains unsettled, customers are thrilled that the salad chain has realized how sweet it is to pay with some green.