Danny Meyer has already been going cash-free at many of his more casual restaurants like Daily Provisions — and now, the Union Square Hospitality Group titan says even more of the company’s businesses will implement the controversial policy of not accepting cash.
Meyer published a letter on LinkedIn on Tuesday morning saying that more and more of USHG’s restaurants will soon only accept credit or debit cards as a form of payment. A USHG spokesperson declined to say which restaurants would be next.
Already, the most casual outposts of the USHG empire only take credit card: Martina, Daily Provisions, Caffe Marchio, Vini e Fritti, and new Williamsburg waterfront restaurant Tacocina are all cash-free. They all involve counter-service and are on the more affordable end of USHG restaurants, which also include more upscale outfits like Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Untitled, and Gramercy Tavern.
In the letter, Meyer argues that going cash-free bolsters safety, efficiency, and speed at the restaurants — saying that staff is safer when there’s no cash on-site and that people will be served faster if everyone uses card.
Though cash-free restaurants are becoming increasingly popular across the city — particularly at fancier fast food places like Sweetgreen and Fuku — the policy has come under fire for being classist. Critics say that such methods shuts out people who have more difficult access to credit or banks, meaning that higher-quality food continues to be for urban and upper-middle-class diners. Meyer in particular has been criticized for his adoption of the policy because he has a track record of speaking out against inequities in the hospitality industry, such as with tipping.
In response to the “socioeconomic implications” of the policy, Meyer writes that the benefits outweigh the impact on potential customers who can only pay cash. “We determined that the benefits for our team — particularly their safety — outweighed the unintended side-effects for a small segment of our guests,” he writes.
Despite the policy, if a paying customer truly only has cash on hand, Meyer says the restaurants will allow them to eat on a “case-by-case basis.” “Policies can be broken in the name of hospitality, and if someone wants to enjoy our food and drink, yet is only able to pay with cash, it is unlikely that we would turn them away,” he says.
Of course, “case-by-case” is its own can of worms, too. Starbucks’ trespassing policy was also dealt with on a case-by-case basis for stores across the country — revealing that biases can come into play after a Philly location kicked out two black men who’d walked in for a meeting.