General Manager Erica Ritchie smiled politely before breaking the news to the young woman with a $10 bill in her hand.
“We’re actually cashless,” said Ritchie inside Bluestone Lane, a bright cafe in the shadow of City Hall in downtown Philadelphia.
“Oh,” said the young woman, a bit sheepishly, before handing over a credit card to pay for her small coffee.
By now, Ritchie is used to the exchange, though it’s not terribly common anymore. Most of Bluestone’s customers are regulars who come because it’s close to work — and because they rarely carry cash. They like the reassurance in this food-crazed city that they won’t need it.
“I can’t remember the last time I got out cash. Probably like a few weeks ago – a month ago? Maybe something like that,” said Samuel Foote, a social worker in the office building above the cafe, as he waited for banana toast. “And it was like to give money to my father who doesn’t have Venmo.”
Bluestone, which now has 20 stores in the U.S., went cashless last October.
A big reason: Nearly 90 percent of customers were like Foote. They never paid in cash.
Another reason: The lines move faster when employees don’t have to make change.
“We’re talking about someone ordering and paying in roughly 40 seconds versus with cash, which is around a minute,” said Bluestone CEO Nick Stone.
Shaving that kind of time doesn’t make Bluestone more money. In fact, it’s more expensive to be cash-free because of the additional debit and credit card fees tacked on to each transaction.