Customers at the sweetgreen in Hollywood (Sunset and Gower location) reportedly got a nice surprise during lunch time yesterday — a free meal. A social media post yesterday from a customer who was there that said the restaurant’s payment system went down, and since sweetgreen is a cashless establishment, the store wound up giving away lunches to all the people standing in line waiting to order.

We don’t have many details except the one eyewitness (who asked to remain anonymous when we followed up with them) report who said that the Hollywood sweetgreen found itself with a “completely crashed system” during the lunch rush. The restaurant had no way to accept cash and instead of closing, they decided to give away food for free.

If it happened as told, this is probably an isolated incident (we reached out to sweetgreen, see below). But the situation highlights the perils restaurants can experience when going cashless, especially if they don’t have contingency plans in place.

The sweetgreen salad chain went cashless in January of 2017. From that point on, in order to pay for your food you had to either order through the app or use a credit card in-store. As my colleague Jenn Marston wrote last year, going cashless has its pluses and minuses.

The good thing about going cashless is improved safety for workers (nothing to rob), faster service, and improved accuracy. All good things! The downside, however, is that it’s expensive to implement, local governments may make it illegal, and it shuts out the poor and young as customers. All bad things!

Going cashless has also had its ups and downs as a businesses decision, for those who tried it. Shake Shack abandoned its self-service, cashless store in New York. And while Eatsa retreated on its plan to roll out its own automated, cashless restaurants, Wow Bao was so taken with Eatsa’s technology and after an initial test decided to open a second cashless location.

We reached out to sweetgreen asking about the incident and to see what type of back up plans the company has in place if and when outages like these happen. A PR rep for the company wrote us back neither confirming nor denying the outage, simply saying that they were going to pass on the opportunity to answer any of our questions.

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