By Gene Marks, Author and Speaker, GeneMarks.com
Gene is a Philadelphia small business owner and a business management speaker, author, and regular columnist for The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post and Philadelphia Magazine.
Every time my wife and I visit our son, who goes to college in Pittsburgh, we take him out to the same local diner.
And I have a message for the owner. You run a great place. It’s very popular. And I’m sure you’re profitable. Except there’s a problem. Your diner only accepts cash.
I’m sure you’ve got your reasons for doing this. But I doubt this will continue. And here are a few reasons why.
I don’t carry cash.
I carry credit cards. And soon, very soon, I’ll be paying for my transactions using Apple Pay or Google Wallet or PayPal or some other service that’s convenient for me. Even though I love your food, I literally won’t have the cash to pay for it. I’m thinking that might impact your cash flow.
Making me pay cash is making my life more difficult.
And that’s not very good customer service is it? I have to get money from an ATM, usually paying a service charge which adds even more to the cost of doing business with your cash only restaurant. Thankfully, and mercifully, you don’t have your own ATM in your restaurant like some other cash-only establishments I know where you can further profit by sharing the fees charged. That’s really bad customer service. But your competition will serve good food in a fast, convenient environment. You will have more pressure to do the same. And making me pay cash is not convenient.
I’m getting no benefit from paying cash.
I don’t find your prices to be any lower. I don’t find the process of paying for my breakfast to be any faster or easier. I’d rather go somewhere where I can pay via a tablet at my table, tap my phone against a reader or, at the very least, hand my credit card to a server who swipes it on a mobile device at my table so I’m not standing in line. If I have the choice of going to two places who equally serve good food, what benefit do I have by going to yours?
You are also suffering by being cash only.
And it’s not just me. Your wait staff sometimes makes math mistakes (I know this for a fact) and this is costing you money. And your staff is getting under-tipped. Accepting only cash, I’m sorry to have to tell you, smells a little bit like a tax dodge and as a CPA I also know that the IRS sometimes likes to make examples of businesses like yours – and trust me, any IRS agent with a high school diploma can figure out your cash flow just by observing your business for a few days. Being a “cash only” business is not only an inconvenience for your customers, it’s a red flag for auditors.
You’ve got no data.
You don’t know who I am. Or my favorite dishes. Or how long it takes to serve me a meal. Or how many times I’ve visited your restaurant. You’ve got no way to discern your better customers from your average customers. If a good competitor opens up across the street who takes better advantage of technology (and serves at least the same quality food, because how hard is it to make a decent egg and a side of bacon?) then you’ve got no way to reach back out to your community, to market to them, offer them deals and incentives to keep patronizing your place. You’ve got nothing.
Your diner is great. And it’s been profitable, I’m sure, for many years. But times have changed. And your business is right smack in the middle of this change. The restaurants like yours that only accept cash are a dying breed. And there’s good reasons why they’re all dying.