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Cash? What's That?

Table talk: December 2019

by Jeff Mortimer

From the January, 2020 issue

Since Holiday's restaurant on West Stadium Blvd. began offering what it calls a discount for cash--in the form of adding the processing fee to the tab of patrons paying with plastic--owner Rob TerBush has noticed a drop in card use ... from 90 percent to 80 percent. Evidently the lure of shaving a hair under 4 percent from their bills wasn't enough to change his customers' payment habits significantly.

Dining establishments across a wide price range tell a similar story: between 70 and 95 percent of their bills are settled with cards. Then comes cash, then checks, which almost all of them still accept even though they aren't asked to very often. "Some companies will write checks for their catering, but it's rare," says Afternoon Delight owner Tom Hackett. "Nobody writes a check for their meals anymore."

Gift cards account for a tiny percentage of transactions, about the same as cash, but are on the rise. "Our gift cards are very popular," says Lindsay Bedolla, co-manager of Knight's. "We definitely sell way more now than 10 years ago."

They're also popular at Holiday's because "you don't have to carry cash but still avoid the processing fee," says TerBush.

As rare as checks, even in high-tech Ann Arbor, are payments made with phones, watches or other personal electronic devices--the places that do accept them report seeing perhaps one a day. "It seems to be happening a lot more in retail," says Dennis Webster, owner of the Earle. The complications involved in connecting a phone or iPad to the device that processes payments, while still providing the guest with a printed check to review, are "not conducive to a fine dining situation."     (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2020.]


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