COVID-19 Reduces Use of Cash in Foodservice

Customers see contactless payments as safer and sanitary.

April 08, 2021

Contactless Google Pay

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—One of the most obvious ways the pandemic has changed consumers’ lives is an increased awareness of cleanliness, reports Although, there’s little scientific evidence that the COVID-19 virus can live on the surface of cash and be transferred to humans, even pre-pandemic, most people viewed cash as “dirty” in the literal sense of the word. As it travels from hand to hand, paper currency collects germs, and the concern of putting employees and consumers at risk has been too important for foodservice operators to ignore.

When the World Health Organization officially declared the pandemic on March 11, 2020, restaurants began asking customers to avoid paying with cash. Some posted signs asking patrons to pay with debit or credit cards, and others requested that consumers only use touchless payments to minimize touchpoints between customers and employees.

As a result of these pushes, in February 2020, a California state senator introduced a bill requiring businesses to accept cash because the “no cash” policy shut out lower-income customers who don’t always have credit or debit cards. Still, retail operators continued to encourage contactless payment.

A recent Mastercard study shows that consumers worldwide prefer contactless payments, with 82% now viewing contactless as a more sanitary way to pay, and 75% planning to continue using contactless payments even post-pandemic. As a result, retailers providing everything from fast food to fine cuisine are revisiting and rethinking their operations to accommodate these changing attitudes.

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with virtual wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, in addition to increasingly using credit and debit cards. Virtual wallets allow consumers to complete payments with their phones, watches and other smart devices.

The rising demand for contactless technologies is near impossible to avoid as most consumers (82%) said contactless payments help them feel safer when dining in. At the same time, 81% said contactless ordering options make them feel safer. In addition, U.S. restaurants have begun beefing up mobile app capabilities, implementing QR codes, text-to-order services, tableside tablets and other contactless systems to eliminate touch points and promote efficiency, all in ways convenient to both consumers and companies.

Nearly 45% of American consumers prefer to view menus, order and pay through their mobile devices during the pandemic. Customers say that the ability to order online (46%) and pay (42%) are among the top features that would encourage them to spend more on food orders.

Additionally, as NACS Daily reported, by 2025, half of all U.S. smartphone users are expected to pay with their phones at point-of-sale. To learn more about contactless mobile payments, read “What’s Next for Mobile Pay” in NACS Magazine.

Discover answers to guide your post-pandemic plan by exploring the COVID Survival Pack—a four-hour learning experience filled with tips and advice for navigating a range of operational challenges, including people, foodservice, vendors and systems in a post-pandemic workplace. Watch the COVID Survival Pack today.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.