Why Are Restaurants Going Cashless? A Guide to Digital Eateries

January 31, 2020
Clock Icon 5 min read

Cashless technologies have soared in popularity in recent years. The days of counting change and paying with notes is becoming a thing of the past, with easy contactless payments becoming people’s go-to payment method. We’ve progressed so much recently that we’ve gone from cash payments all the way to mobile card payments with the likes of Apple Pay. Now, not only do we no longer need cash to buy our favourite food, we don’t even need a card.

Cashless payments are the way forward for many people, and paying by card has simply become second nature. In fact, people are so used to paying by card that they are often caught off guard when a restaurant requests ‘cash only’. However, a restaurant that says ‘card payments only’ would rarely catch anyone out.

This leads to an important question that restaurant owners have to ask themselves: is it worth simply ditching the cash altogether and becoming a cashless restaurant?


What is a Cashless Restaurant?

A cashless restaurant is the term given to any restaurant that doesn’t accept cash payments and instead only accepts card and mobile payments.

An increasing number of restaurants are choosing to go cashless. The most common places to opt for card only payments are bars, street food vendors, and pop-up catering establishments, like bars at a music concert or in an event space. However, some restaurants are even choosing to go cashless for a variety of reasons.

A food truck offering food at a festival


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Going Cashless?

Deciding to go cashless can bring numerous benefits, including:

  • Reduced chances of theft. Not having any cash on your premises can help to prevent theft, in turn making your staff safer and saving you money on vandalised premises.
  • Saving time for your business. You will save time at the start and end of the day by not having to count your takings or prepare your till, as well as not having to make deposits at the bank.
  • Saving time for your customers. Simply tapping a card or mobile phone is much quicker than counting out coins for a payment. This will appeal to customers who are in a rush, such as on their lunch break.
  • More space. This might seem insignificant, but a bulky cash drawer and a safe can take up a lot of room. If space is tight on your premises already, then choosing transportable lightweight card machines is a bit of a no-brainer.
  • Reduced chances of fraud. If you don’t handle any cash, then you can’t be given any counterfeited money.

Of course, there are also a number of downsides that accompany going cashless, such as:

  • Not appealing to everyone. Consider your clientele: if the majority of your customers are of an older generation, then they’re much more likely to pay with cash. Going cashless could potentially stop these people from visiting your restaurant again, which will impact your takings. However, if your restaurant is in a busy office area where people are likely to come on their lunch breaks, then going cashless could potentially be the best option to save time.
  • Reduced tips. If you establish yourself as a restaurant that doesn’t accept cash, then people are unlikely to bring cash with them when they visit. In turn, this may make them less likely to tip. Although you can get around this by having prompts on card machines to ask for gratuity, many people are sceptical of this method and whether the full amount actually reaches the servers.
  • Problems with technology. If you’re having issues with your card machines, certain card providers, or internet, then there may be no alternative way of taking payment.
  • Excluding potential customers. Not everybody in Britain has a bank account, so going cashless will automatically exclude these customers. Additionally, certain people will have accounts that charge transaction fees, so they will be deterred from using their cards too much.

Customer paying for their coffee using their mobile phone


How Does a Restaurant Go Cashless?

If you think that you want to go cashless at your restaurant, then there are a few things you must consider first. Taking the leap without thinking it through completely will likely result in the system falling apart. Below are our top tips for deciding whether cashless is for you.

Think About Your Customers

Think about whether it’s actually the right option for your business and your needs. Consider your clientele and ask for their opinions on whether they would be happy with you becoming cashless. Think about your location and whether cash payments are slowing you down and card payments would be quicker. Finally, consider the type of restaurant that you are and the impression that you’re trying to give: a casual bar that appeals to younger people is probably better suited to cashless payments than a vintage tearoom.

Take Your Time

While jumping straight in can feel tempting, it’s actually a big mistake. You should let your customers know in advance about your plans to become cashless, aiming for at least a six-month notice. You should display your intentions very clearly and across a wide range of platforms: notices displayed in your premises, informing your customers via your social media channels, and posting it on your website are all very successful ways of reaching a wide audience.

Speak to Your Staff

If you think that going cashless is the best approach for your restaurant, speak to your staff to see if they agree. Talk through your plans and how you reached the conclusion that taking card-only payments is beneficial for your business. Ask them if they are comfortable becoming a cashless restaurant and listen to any concerns you have. Take these concerns on board and see if you can answer them. If they are genuine concerns that you hadn’t thought of and don’t know how to answer, it might be a sign that you should reconsider.

A display of afternoon tea at a tearoom

Plan For, and Buy, Your Equipment

You must plan your move to cashless thoroughly, which includes carefully choosing the equipment you are going to use. Think about the number of card payment machines you’ll need and plan for back-ups, just in case a problem arises. Additionally, think about the types of card machine and systems that would best benefit your business. If you’re a restaurant with a main bar where people must order from, then having machines on the bar is your best bet. However, if you take payments at tables, opting for a more portable and sleeker handheld device will better suit your needs. Compare the prices of the different machines and systems and look at the reviews for each one.

Have a Trial Run

If you like the idea of going cashless, but you’re not too sure whether it would work out well for your business, have a go at trialling it. Gather feedback from customers about whether they like it and speak to your staff to gather their thoughts. It’s important that you know whether it will work out before you completely take the plunge.

Train Your Staff

It may seem like an obvious point that you need to train your staff in new procedures, but there are many times when staff are left behind because they haven’t received the appropriate training or been told the proper procedure. If you invest in new card machines, ensure everyone is confident in how to use them and what to do if the machines aren’t responding correctly.

You should also ask your staff to let you know of any feedback they hear from customers about your move to a cashless restaurant. Hearing both positive and negative feedback can help you to improve and confirm whether you have made the correct decision.

One member of staff training another in POS systems


What are the Best Cashless Solutions for Restaurants?

There are many systems out there, so it’s important that you find the best one for your needs. As well as taking payments, some POS systems can take orders and even contain your ingredients lists, which is great for customer confidence if they have allergies or dietary requirements.

Some of the best and most popular cashless solutions are:

TouchBistro – This is a cloud-based system but it can also work offline, so long as there is a local network of iPads connected to an iMac or Mac Pro. The key features of the system include displaying floor layout, splitting the bill, ordering from the tableside (for staff and customers), and managing the menu. Additionally, the company offers 24/7 customer support, meaning you can contact them via phone or email whenever you need to.

Square POS – Square is a popular POS system for quick-service restaurants, such as bars, coffee shops, and food trucks, but it serves businesses of all sizes. It allows for menu customisation, contains analytics and reporting tools that allow you to track sales per item, and offers 24/7 support.

Lightspeed Restaurant POS – This flexible iPad-based POS system allows you to connect third-party applications to it, meaning that you can add features like employee rotas, bookings, and loyalty programmes. Within the software itself, you can build a floor plan to help servers know where they are taking the food, manage the menu, and track your analytics. Finally, the system allows customers to order at their tables and there is 24/7 support available.


Choosing to transform your restaurant to one with a card-only payment system can be daunting but, if it’s the correct solution for your business, you will soon see the benefits. Make sure you’re confident in your decision, and your staff are happy, before you decide to ditch the cash for good.


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