Heads up, Sweetgreen fans: If you want to get your salad bowl fix, make sure you’re armed with plastic.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 18, all area outposts of the healthy food fast-casual will be completely cashless. Customers will be able to pay via credit or debit card at the register, or can use the Sweetgreen app or website to place a pre-paid order.
The Rittenhouse location at 18th and Chestnut was the last area holdout accepting cash. Sweetgreens in Wash West, Ardmore and King of Prussia had already ceased cash transactions, and the University City store has been closed for remodeling. When it reopens on Jan. 18, it too will be cash-free, as first reported by the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Foregoing greenbacks entirely is a policy the DC-founded, LA-headquartered company began implementing at the beginning of last year. Co-founder Jonathan Neman told the New York Times in July 2016 that executives made the move after determining cash made up fewer than 10 percent of all Sweetgreen purchases nationwide.
In Philadelphia, the number may have been slightly higher. Rittenhouse Sweetgreen manager Jamil Thornton, who’s worked for the company since October 2015, said he estimates approximately one in five patrons at his store usually paid in cash.
However, he doesn’t anticipate a major problem with the switch, he said, because when you enter the restaurant “you’re greeted by so many people,” and everyone from the concierge at the door to the servers behind the line will be alerting customers to the new policy. If for some reason a person made it to the register and still didn’t realize and didn’t have another way to pay, Thornton said, he would probably end up giving them the meal for free, at least for the first few days until customers get used to it.
By the end of 2017, all 64 Sweetgreen stores will be entirely cashless, per a company spokesperson, and one stated reason for the switch is to minimize time in line waiting to pay. Thornton confirmed that cash transactions have indeed been the cause of delays at his store. Another bonus of cash-free locations is there’s no incentive for burglary — as long as thieves are aware of the policy, that is.
The downside, as the Daily Pennsylvanian pointed out, is that not everyone has a bank account — a lack that’s more prevalent among lower-income demographics. However, in this particular case, that may not be very applicable, since Sweetgreen meals aren’t cheap to begin with (bowls average around $9 each). A recent Gallup poll found that 12 percent of Americans never use cash, and 22 percent use cash for only half their purchases.
Manager Thornton said he had not heard of many complaints at the other area stores that already adopted the new practice. At the Rittenhouse location of Bluestone Lane, an Australian-based coffee shop chain that went cashless last October, a worker said it was usually older people who complained, and even then not very often.