Argo Tea Tests Cashless Cafes

Argo Tea is going cashless at four of its cafes and would like to apply this business operations method to the rest of its 49 cafes. This sparks the questions of whether this marks the beginning of a trend of other retailers eliminating the option of cash from their customer transactions and if it is ultimately beneficial to businesses and to consumers.

Argo Tea’s cashless Union Square cafe, photo courtesy of Argo Tea

Three of the initial four Argo Tea pilot cafes are located in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart, the Loop and at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the fourth is in New York City in Union Square.

“We know that we will disappoint some customers, and we want to do our best for them,” Kari Ginal, Argo Tea’s vice president of marketing told Chicago Business. “But we hope this will be better for everyone. It will free up our managers to spend more time with customers, more time making drinks, getting people through lines faster and providing more customer service.”

Initially, this might seem like a good idea as it appears to prioritize efficiency over a somewhat archaic practice of using cash. In this digital era, it appears increasingly more businesses are going cashless. Sweetgreen restaurant is one example of a cashless business, which only accepts payment in the forms of credit cards or by app. The quick-service restaurant’s policy has been met with mixed reactions from customers, according to CBS New York. Some issues surrounding app and digital payments are electronic fraud and digital invasion of privacy.

In Sweden, cashless businesses are the norm with cash transactions comprising only about 2 percent of all spending, reports the Guardian. “I don’t use cash any more, for anything,” Louise Henriksson, 26, a teaching assistant told the Guardian. “You just don’t need it. Shops don’t want it; lots of banks don’t even have it. Even for a candy bar or a paper, you use a card or phone.”

The transition to cashless business operations on the part of these American companies could indicate that the U.S. is beginning to move in the same direction.

Cash transactions represent between 10 percent and 25 percent of Argo Tea’s total transactions. Though cash transactions make up a small percentage of their business, they require a daily commitment from store managers who have to count out their tills and deposit the earnings in a bank. However, there is a flipside to this situation, which is the issue of what to do if a customer only has cash. Argo Tea is considering adding kiosks in their cafes that would enable customers to put cash onto gift cards, reports Chicago Business.

Sources: Chicago Business, CBS New York, The Guardian