With Covid accelerating the use of cashless payments as well as other customer behaviours, some hospitality businesses are choosing to ditch cash entirely – leaving cash-reliant gaming machines in danger of inhospitable environments.
The CEO of digital challenger bank Starling Bank estimates that the pandemic has pushed forward the move towards a cashless society by around ten years.
“Trying to roll back cashless is like trying to hold back the tide,” she told pub trade magazine The Morning Advertiser. “The challenge is making sure it works for everyone.”
However, with some communities and businesses still reliant on cash, making it work for everyone is a challenge. This is especially true for machine operators who face archaic regulation that bans the use of card directly on machines.
As pubs increasingly embrace cashless, single site operators have been the first to feel the squeeze. Piers Baker, owner of the Sun Inn, Dedham and Church Street Tavern in Colchester, Essex, told the MA that Covid has “killed off cash” at his sites.
“It came about as a bit of an accident as going to the bank to get the change needed for cash transactions was taking up a lot of time due to queuing, so we just gave up and thought we would try cashless for the first weekend,” he said. “No complaints on the whole so we have kept it.”
However, while the benefits for a cashless bar are clear, an unintended consequence is that pub-goers that also want to play on the gaming machines have to be prepared to bring the correct change themselves. As such, the increasing use of cashless in pubs represents not only a shift in payment methods, but a shift in customer behaviour. Covid has accelerated this, while also causing pubs to utilise cashless to give life to trends such as table service. Indeed, data from restaurant solutions provider Vita Mojo found that ordering and paying at table has seen a very high adoption rate amongst customers during the pandemic, accounting for up to 90 percent of transactions.
Whether the trend will continue once the pandemic is over remains to be seen, but it is yet another disruption to the traditional pub ecosystem that has been so hospitable to gaming machines. The new ecosystem of cashless payments and customers remaining seated for longer periods? Not so much.