Starbucks Pilots Cashless Store

The coffeehouse chain experiments with a Seattle location that only accepts mobile or card payments.

January 19, 2018

SEATTLE – Starbucks doesn’t want customers to pay with cold, hard cash at a downtown Seattle location. Instead, that particular coffeeshop will only accept payment in the form of credit or debit cards or via mobile apps, Seattle Times reports. The chain said it’s a test program at a single location in “only cashless forms of payment,” said a Starbucks spokeswoman.

“The test will help us understand how cashless forms of payment may impact our customer experience,” said the spokeswoman, who added that the company hasn’t made plans to expand the test beyond this one store.

Because of its location in the bottom of a business building, the store probably didn’t have many cash transactions anyway, according to Jonathan Zhang, a professor of marketing at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. “I would expect in that location that cash represents only a tiny percentage of business anyhow,” he said. “The vast, vast majority of people don’t use cash in the first place” for buying coffee.

Sweetgreen, with 75 locations in the Northeast and California, went cashless last year, a decision that hasn’t slowed sales, co-CEO Jonathan Neman said in the fall. The cashless Starbucks does offer one exception to the no-cash rule: a tip jar by the register made it clear that bills and coins were still welcome there.