Austin restaurant Chi’lantro goes cashless

Kim chi fries at Chi'lantro (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Kim chi fries at Chi'lantro (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When was the last time you paid for your lunch with cash? Maybe it was yesterday’s outing, but for most it has probably been a while. At least that’s what Chi’lantro BBQ has noticed.

The Korean-Mexican inspired restaurant says they will stop accepting cash in April at all locations including stores on Burnet Road, South Lamar and the newest locations set to open at the Domain next month in addition to the one in the South Shore District this fall.

The downtown Austin food truck location and other mobile units have been cashless for the last two months already. Owner Jae Kim says it was a safe business decision.

“We wanted to get the cash out of those trucks and eliminate any possible problems. There had been threats of theft so it just made sense to get the cash out of there,” Kim said.

Kim says most of his customers were already pulling out the plastic. “Eighty-five percent of our customer base is willing to spend their money with their credit card so 15 percent of the restaurant’s customers use cash.”

When asked their preferred payment type, 43 percent of Americans chose debit cards compared with 35 percent who preferred credit cards and just 9 percent who preferred cash, according to a 2014 TSYS online survey of 1,000 consumers who owned both a debit card and a credit card.

Customer convenience was a bring draw for Chi’lantro to go cashless, but piece of mind also played a big factor.

“We don’t have to worry about thefts, someone coming into our restaurant and wanting to steal cash and our staff are not tempted to steal from us either,” Kim said.

Mixing up the way you pay has come with some mixed reviews. While some agree with the business model, they argue it limits their options. Others seem unfazed by the change and in fact, support the move.

Chi’lantro has been spreading the word to it’s customers for the last month. There are signs posted throughout the restaurant also letting people know about the switch. Kim said he knows he’s taking a big risk.

“We have had people literally walk out the door when we tell them because they just don’t agree with it,” he said.

But he’s confident it will all work out once people catch on.

“It may hurt our business in the beginning, but we think in the long term, it will really benefit everyone,” Kim said.

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