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After backlash, Sweetgreen restaurants to accept cash

  • Sweetgreen said it will accept cash at every location by the end of 2019.
  • The fast-casual eatery acknowledged its cashless policy unfairly penalized those without credit or debit cards.
  • Critics say cashless retail is discriminatory, and a number of states have proposed legislation to ban it.

Popular food chain Sweetgreen is reversing its cashless policy and will start accepting greenbacks, the company said in a statement Thursday. The fast-casual restaurant company, which established its cashless policy in 2016, said that while being cashless improved employee safety and speed of service, it also "had the unintended consequence of excluding those who prefer to pay or can only pay with cash."

It's now committing to accepting cash at every one of its 75 locations by the end of 2019. That's because it determined that ultimately the policy didn't serve its mission to "build healthier communities by connecting people to real food." 

Proponents of cashless retail argue that it makes stores and restaurants safer for workers and cuts costs associated with cash management. But critics say it penalizes the poor by excluding the unbanked -- customers without checking or savings accounts -- a condition that in 2017 affected approximately 8.4 million U.S. households, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. 

A number of states have either passed or are proposing legislation to require businesses to accept cash. Massachusetts has since 1978 required that no retailer "shall discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit." Philadelphia last month became the first city to ban cashless retail establishments and impose fines of up to $2,000 on businesses that don't comply. 

Amazon will also start accepting cash at its "Go" stores, CNBC reported this month. It had initially threatened to abandon plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in Philadelphia over the new law.

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