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Would you go to a restaurant that doesn’t accept credit cards?

4519336529When Ria Pell opened Sauced restaurant recently, she decided to gamble on a now-unusual business practice: the restaurant will not accept credit cards.

Pell has installed an ATM on the premises so that guests who find themselves stuck without enough green stuff after dinner can withdraw the needed cash.

“It’s an interesting way not to have Visa suck you dry,” Pell told me of her decision. By not having to pay credit card processing fees, Pell says she can pass the savings on to customers and keep her prices lower.

She got the idea when she was visiting restaurants in New York and noticed that the practice was becoming more commonplace there.

Here in Atlanta you might find cash-only policies at breakfast spots, such as Thumbs Up Diner. But most customers have the $10 in their wallets to front a breakfast tab. As far as I know, there aren’t any other places that serve full dinners and refuse to take plastic.

Pell says the policy is an experiment for now and will change it if there’s a huge backlash from customers. But she also says other restaurant owners are looking at it with great interest.

The fees  — which often start with 2.5% of sales off the top — can be daunting for small businesses. The Visa website list these potential fees that acquirers (lending institutions) can levy on merchants:

  • Discount rate (a percentage of sales)
  • Per-item fees
  • Monthly minimums
  • Statement fees
  • Chargeback processing
  • Fees for supplies (e.g., drafts, roll paper, etc.)
  • Terminal lease or rental fees

But many customers prefer the ease of plastic. Today’s post on Sauced got people talking about the no-credit-card policy. A poster named Johnny B summed up a common sentiment with this comment:

“I have been a faithful Ria’s customer for years, and will continue to do so. I am sure this restaurant will be as amazing as Ria is; however, the cash only position they have taken will keep me from dining there as often as I would have otherwise.”

What do you think?  Would a cash-only policy keep you from trying out a new restaurant?

115 comments Add your comment

Sean M

January 19th, 2010
2:59 pm

It’s a nice spot, but for the prices charged, I think the cash only policy hurts more than it helps. it’s still new and shiny there so business is probably fine, but I guess we’ll see how it goes. personally I wasn’t seeing where the savings was being passed on to “us”.


January 19th, 2010
3:02 pm

It’s a hassle. I’ve eaten at Sauced about 4 times (I live nearby and Danielle is a great bartender!) and the machine has been broken or out of cash at least twice. If you’re going to require cash, the ATM should be working.

I think it makes more sense for a breakfast place (Java Jive has had this policy forever) but for dinner, when you’re more likely to have a larger party and split checks, etc. – it’s just inconvenient.

I’m hoping that Sauced becomes more established, works out the kinks in its menu, and eventually allows cards.


January 19th, 2010
3:10 pm

I think its fine for places to be cash only. Like mentioned above, there are similar places like this all across NYC and they do fine. Peter Lugers’, one of NYC’s classic steakhouses is not super pricey but also cash only and does very well.

For me, it definitely makes me think twice before going to a place like this. Do I have enough cash? Is there an ATM on the way? But for the most part it won’t turn me away. If its a great place with great food, I’m still gonna go. Having the ATM is definitely a move in the right direction, but my question is what kind of fees does it charge? Nothing worse than having to drop $5 just to get cash out.

If the food is good, this place will do fine. I doubt the success/failure of a restaurant is going to depend on cash vs. plastic.


January 19th, 2010
3:12 pm

correction to above: “not only super pricey but also cash only”


January 19th, 2010
3:22 pm

Often enough, cash only restaurants will accept debit cards which is the same as cash.


January 19th, 2010
3:46 pm

I love the idea of cash only. Carrying cash is a lost art these days. It would definitely not stop me from trying a place for dinner.


January 19th, 2010
3:49 pm

I’m pretty sure the Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge is cash only, and they seem to continue to do pretty well – they have an ATM just inside the entrance.

Always Hungry

January 19th, 2010
4:08 pm

It doesn’t seem to be a problem at the Colonnade or Souper Jenny. I almost always use cash.

top chef fanatic

January 19th, 2010
4:24 pm

2 words joes stonecrab


January 19th, 2010
4:28 pm

I ate lunch at Carver’s today and they only accept cash. You just have to be prepared and know that’s their policy. I wonder how many of these restaurants turn would-be diners away because they realize they have no cash in their pockets? And I’m sure there are others out there like me who don’t like using ATMs that are not owned and operated by their bank because they don’t like paying additional fees.


January 19th, 2010
4:50 pm

I’m with Steve above – if the food is good, it’ll do just fine.

I think having to remember to go get cash IS a hassle (as I’m one of the ones who rarely carries more than 5 or 10 in my pocket and then, typically that’s for valet parking) however if an ATM is provided I’m OK with it.

Whether or not there’s a hefty surcharge to use that ATM is another issue entirely.


January 19th, 2010
5:18 pm

I won’t go to a restaurant that doesn’t accept credit or debit cards. It’s inconvenient and frankly, stupid not to offer that convenience to customers.


January 19th, 2010
6:24 pm

I’ve never noticed a place that doesn’t take cash offering a discount because of it. the MAIN reason they want cash only because green dollars leave no record for the taxman whereas credit and debit cards do (probably why it’s so prevelent in New York). For me, carrying cash is a safety and security issue. If someone sees me open my wallet and there is a wad of cash in there, they are more likely to target ME than target someone else who does not have tons of cash in their wallet. Also, if someone steals my wallet with tons of cash in it, then I’m out the tons of cash. If someone steals my wallet with a credit card or debit card in it, then the scumbag business that accepts the stolen credit card is out the cash, not me. Also there is the issue of not only NOT passing me a discount for their lack of processing fees, the establishment is costing me even more money by forcing me to use one of those ghetto non bank machines that charge me on both ends.

Making a short answer long, not only no, but HELL NO.


January 19th, 2010
6:39 pm

Debit card = cash? My provider (paypal) still charges me their vig even when a client uses a debit card.


January 19th, 2010
6:45 pm

Thumbs Up Diner (at least the new location in Roswell) does accept credit cards but gives a discount for cash. They also have an ATM on premises. I’m guessing the ATM adds a surcharge of a couple of dollars so that would offset the discount for cash anyway.


January 19th, 2010
6:50 pm

I’m with Librarygirlatl; i would be ok with the cash-only thing as long as the ATM doesn’t charge me an outrageous fee. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the case, and if the restaurant is getting a cut of those ATM fees then forget it, there are plenty of oither great places to dine out.


January 19th, 2010
6:54 pm

Dekalb farmers market prepared food bar quit accepting debit cards a few years back and I haven’t been back since. I used to stop there at least three times a week.


January 19th, 2010
6:56 pm

I’m a cash kind of guy…fine by me.


January 19th, 2010
7:00 pm


January 19th, 2010
7:03 pm

The Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge has been there for years and years and DOES NOT TAKE PLASTIC!!!! However, they do take checks….Go figure….Love that place.

JC accountant

January 19th, 2010
7:06 pm

This is just a ploy or method of avoiding recording the revenue and cheating the IRS.

Cash Only?

January 19th, 2010
7:07 pm

Sounds like a great way to scam the government by pocketing all of the cash you get… MJQ has been doing this for years anyway.

No thanks

January 19th, 2010
7:07 pm

I’ll be the first to laugh when they get robbed and all of that lovely cash is stolen. Credit cards provide convenience to the customer and security to the business.. well worth the 2.5% that visa is going to charge. This isn’t exactly a safe part of town!

I won’t patronize anywhere that won’t take an American Express.


January 19th, 2010
7:18 pm

The card issuers do not allow a discount for cash. Some get away with it for a while but all it takes is one complaint and you lose your merchant account. Debit cards are NOT the same as cash to the merchant as you still have to pay for a merchant account to obtain the machines/connectivity for approvals. Merchant accounts carry a monthly fee whether you use them or not. I seriously doubt it is to avoid taxes as most use computer programs to enter orders and this would be difficult to cheat. Most choosing to do this are just avoiding the fees, chargebacks, etc. and would save 5-10% depending on volume and/or fraud. Imagine how you would feel if you find out a few days later that the party of 12 with 2 magnums of Dom used a fraudulent credit card.

As a customer I wouldn’t mind using cash but I want to see the savings on the right hand side of the menu. I don’t know how this could be done under the current rules however and would love to see a backlash to the banks allowing for cash discounts. This would allow the merchant to offset their costs for the credit cards and be up front about it.


January 19th, 2010
7:25 pm

haven’t been there in a while (assume it’s still the case) but Greenwood’s in Roswell is cash only & they always have waits for tables. bottom line: you have the right to not go there if it’s an issue for you but if a restaurant’s good enough (they are) they won’t have any trouble filling their tables…


January 19th, 2010
7:25 pm

It’s suicide.
They may as well shutter the place now.
Whoever thought of it is a complete certified moron.

Sales Manager

January 19th, 2010
7:27 pm

I frequently take customers and business partners out to dinner which can total in the hundreds of dollars. I refuse to carry this kind of cash or use an ATM that isn’t owned/operated by the bank where I have my accounts. I guess I need to start asking if they still take plastic when I call to make dinner reservations.


January 19th, 2010
7:32 pm

So, you hand the waiter your Amex card to run the card and print your bill—and you really don’t know if that Amex card was scanned a second time by a card reader and your info is stolen. That happens all the time—and sure, you’re only on the hook for $50, then have the hassle of cancelling the card and convincing Amex or BOA or whoever that all those goodies they bought aren’t really yours. No, thanks, but I will not let that card out of my sight. And there are a GROWING number of businesses that no longer accept Amex because their fees are TRIPLE those of MC and Visa. That just adds expenses that are directly passed on to you, the customer. And cash won’t leave a trail of where you’ve been and what you’ve spent. Cash is King!


January 19th, 2010
7:38 pm

I guess I am old school, but my business ethic tells me that you should do everything within reason for the convenience of your paying customers, not like the Soup Nazi. I percieve this tactic as greedy. She doesn’t want to absorb the credit card processing fees, but has no problem with her customers absorbing bank fees thru their ATM. I wouldn’t go there just for the sake that I hate cheap people.


January 19th, 2010
7:40 pm

While I understand reasons for not accepting credit card, the practice is not realistic. As a general rule, I will not do business with places that do not accept credit card/plastic. I would be afraid that such a business model would not be viable or sustainable, particularily as the more people and more people rely on electronic forms of payment.


January 19th, 2010
7:40 pm

Restaurants are service businesses. Dictating how a customer pays just isn’t good service unless they have aspirations to be “food Nazis.”
Same goes for those that don’t take American Express “because it costs too much.”
Most of those types fall into that 85 or so percent of businesses that fail in the first year or shortly after. Only one I know of that has survived not taking AX is Old Hickory House, but you can’t get Old Hickory at any other BBQ place. They’re all pale imitations.

Kelly Jondle

January 19th, 2010
7:43 pm

Very common practive out here in Southern California.

UGA Teacher

January 19th, 2010
7:57 pm

Steak and Shake more than doubled their business when they started taking credit cards. Sam’s Club found their business increased when they started accepting M/C. I don’t keep cash with me, so I would have to go somewhere else.

E pluribus urpum

January 19th, 2010
8:00 pm

Why would you want to finance a turd anyway ?


January 19th, 2010
8:04 pm

Nothing but cash at restaurants for me anyway. And I hope everyone here using credit cards to pay for meals also pays off their balance at the end of the month. Because paying interest on a restaurant tab is an absurd waste of money. I’ve gone dutch with friends and had to talk them out of pocketing my cash and paying for the entire bill with a credit card, thus paying interest on MY dinner as well!

uberVU - social comments

January 19th, 2010
8:07 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by kotakcards: Would you go to a restaurant that doesn’t accept credit cards?: Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)
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January 19th, 2010
8:08 pm

I would not patronize a place that has a cash only policy. I carry cash only for emergencies, have never used an ATM (no desire to), and don’t have a debit card (absolutely no desire to have one). If cash is required, my credit card and I will go elsewhere.

Adam Aikens

January 19th, 2010
8:08 pm

Honestly, I would not even go there if I know up front that it is cash only. Waffle House used to be that way and it was always such a pain and quite honestly a deterrent. And then you just throw an ATM in the restaurant so that patrons can pull out the cash there? I am sure Sauced is going to get some of the $$ from the $4-$5 in fees I will incur when I pull out the cash. You must think really high of yourself if you believe you’re going to have a line out the door with cash only patrons.


January 19th, 2010
8:10 pm

Sansho – I would happily pay your part of the bill on my credit card. Not only have I ALWAYS paid my credit card in full every month, I get cash back on purchases. Therefore, I would be earning cash back on the cost of your meal. :)


January 19th, 2010
8:11 pm

Enter your comments here


January 19th, 2010
8:20 pm

Waffle house had the cash only policey for years and years, no plastic, no checks, the survived, but saw the light and now accept plastic, still no checks. I frequent a Mexican resturant localy that gives a 10% discount for paying with cash, I make sure when going there I have enough to cover the tab.


January 19th, 2010
8:23 pm

I think this is a terrible idea. I live in this area and hang out on Edgewood all the time. I had been excited about trying Sauced but now it goes to the bottom of the list.

First, with a breakfast joint like Thumbs Up, you can be pretty comfortable that a $20 bill will be more than enough. At Sauced, unless I carry excessive amounts of cash, how can I estimate how much I will spend. I may want more drinks, a fine bottle of wine, dessert, and if I don’t have enough cash I’m not ordering it. Do I get hundreds from the ATM on the off chance that I might spend a lot (and risk getting robbed), or do I order less because I didn’t get enough cash out at my bank? This is just an added hassle that I don’t need when there are so many other options.

As for the on-site ATM, if there are any fees, they’ll exceed the 2-3% the credit card company would charge. I’ve seen the prices – she’s definitely not passing the merchant fee savings along to her customers. I am not willing to pay an ATM fee because the restaurant won’t recognize basic dining protocol. Plus my bank will charge an out of network fee. It is not fair to burden the customer with $5-6 in fees for a $40 dinner.

I agree with the other commenters who mention the danger involved in carrying large amounts of cash. This is a high crime area, and there are vagrants everywhere. Now they all know that everyone walking into Sauced will be loaded with cash. Thanks, Ria.

Using credit cards is just safer and more convenient. I get skymiles for my purchases. I have a record of my expenses, and an advocate if there’s a dispute with the merchant. There’s barely any risk of loss due to theft, and it allows diners to eat out even when they don’t have the cash in the bank to pay immediately. That may or may not be a responsible personal financial decision, but I know tons of people who live beyond their means and spend tons of money in restaurants. Sauced will lose out on that revenue.

There are some inexpensive restaurants where the inconvenience is part of the charm – you know Miss Ann is surly, that Carver’s is cash only, that you can’t sit before ordering at Taq del Sol – and you put up with it because it’s unique. This idea does not translate to finer dining, and this restaurant is going to pay the price for putting this burden on its customers.

Eli Z

January 19th, 2010
8:24 pm

Not a fan of such a policy. No matter the price point of the food, CC should be an option and should be a cost built in to the “fixed costs” of operating the business. This may work in NYC but I doubt it will catch on or work long term in ATL.


January 19th, 2010
8:28 pm

I rarely go places that don’t take plastic. I am not one of those paying interest on my meal though as I only use my VISA or Mastercard debit cards. I rarely have any cash. I even go to parking garages that take plastic. I think more places (like vending machines) should take cards. The only way I ever go to a cash-only establishment is when it is prearranged and even then it better be somewhere special.


January 19th, 2010
8:32 pm

I would absolutely would not go to a restaurant that does not accept credit cards. There is nothing as germ-ridden as money. So, if you wish to spread disease, especially in a restaurant, then let’s just use cash.


January 19th, 2010
8:32 pm

Sometimes I have cash and sometimes I don’t. For me to make a special trip to the ATM (my bank’s ATM – I am not paying ATM fees EVER!) just to get cash to go to a cash-only restaurant, it would have to be exceptional.


January 19th, 2010
8:35 pm

I know it is not Atlanta but The Red Bar at Santa Rosa Beach has never taken credit cards and has operated for years. And it is not inexpensive. Cash only with an ATM in the back.


January 19th, 2010
8:38 pm

Only if they accept checks or debit cards.

taxes and cash

January 19th, 2010
8:39 pm

it’s much much easier to avoid income taxes with a cash-only business

just sayin’


January 19th, 2010
8:45 pm

“Carrying cash is a lost art these days.”

Yeah, along with carburetors, lead paint, and polio. It’s called progress.

To me, it seems like in today’s theft-happy environment, you’re pretty much painting a bulls-eye on your back with a policy like this.