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Danny Meyer says refusing customers over politics is bad for restaurant business

Restaurateur Danny Meyer on going cashless
Restaurateur Danny Meyer on going cashless, Sanders restaurant incident 05:09

Restaurant industry titan Danny Meyer built his empire by focusing on good food and what he calls "enlightened hospitality." The question of whether restaurants owe hospitality to all patrons regardless of political affiliation was raised last weekend when a Virginia restaurant refused to serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders because of her association with President Trump. For Meyer, the founder of popular burger chain Shake Shack, that's just bad for business. 

"I'd like to think that the people we hire at our restaurants are there for the purpose of hospitality. I'm benefiting from having grown up with a Republican dad and Democratic mom and we used the dinner table to talk things out. I think it's a slippery slope. How do you know that Sarah Sanders or someone wasn't dining with a liberal friend and they were going to use the table as an opportunity to work things out?" Meyer said on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "The minute you see me checking people's political registration at the door, that's a bad future, I think, for our business."  

Sarah Sanders responds to Red Hen restaurant controversy 00:54

Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns 17 New York-area restaurants. Four of those now operate completely cashless and he says more will follow that trend. Despite criticism that being cashless excludes people who can't get credit cards or don't have bank accounts, Meyer defended his decision as a way to make the work environment more safe.

"The reason is primarily security for our staff. When you have cash on premise, you're only inviting problems. You're inviting potential problems from the outside. You're also inviting potential problems from the inside," Meyer said.

He also cited efficiency and cleanliness, specifically at fast-casual restaurants where the same people handling cash might also be handling food.

"At the end of the day we said that most people these days are either using apps or they're using credit cards or using loyalty cards," he said. "If somebody absolutely says I'm dying to eat one of your tacos at Tacocina but I don't have a credit card, we're going to find a way to take care of them anyway, but I think when you have an overarching philosophy about it, you definitely make the place safer for everybody who works there."

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