The popular salad chain Sweetgreen is about to go cashless.
The fast-casual chain, which has roughly 60 locations in the Northeast and California, will soon only accept payment via its app or credit card.
All Sweetgreen locations in New York, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania will stop accepting cash on January 18. Locations in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia will go cashless in March. Boston, where state laws require businesses to accept cash payments, will be exempt from the new policy.
The switch will make Sweetgreen one of the largest chains in the nation to completely ditch cash, but the change probably won’t affect too many customers. Cash purchases make up less than 10% of Sweetgreen sales
“[Cashless] started with an imperative that we’ve always had at Sweetgreen: How do we simplify things?” Sweetgreen co-founder Jonathan Neman told Business Insider.
Last January, six Sweetgreen locations stopped accepting cash in a test that proved to be a success.
According to Neman, the locations that cut cash were able to speed up service by 10% because workers didn’t have to spend time counting money. Going cashless also reduces the threat of theft or robbery.
Going cashless has gone hand-in-hand with Sweetgreen’s emphasis on online and mobile ordering, which tends to make people spend more. Customers who order and pay online or via app now make up 30% of Sweetgreen’s sales.
Refusing to allow customers to pay with cash does have some downsides, though.
Neman said Sweetgreen’s biggest challenge in going cashless will be making sure customers understand the reasoning behind the change. Employees will serve in the “front lines” explaining cashless payments to customers. Sweetgreen will also publish a Medium blog post explaining the change and post clear signage that customers will see before they get in line to order.
Another problem is that 7% of the US population doesn’t have a bank account, meaning they will be automatically excluded from ordering Sweetgreen. Neman said Sweetgreen hopes to address this issue through continued community outreach, as well as potentially exploring new formats of stores that fit different customers’ needs.
Going cashless is just one of Sweetgreen’s plans for building a forward-thinking restaurant chain — many of which are driven by the company’s in-house tech team. Other initiatives include growing online orders, building a new, more engagement-focused app to be released next year, and collecting data that allows for more complete knowledge of everything from kitchen prep to customer preferences.
“The restaurant industry is so behind on this and so ripe for innovation,” said Neman. “It’s very very exciting.”
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