Why The Majority Of Residential Dining Doesn’t Accept Cash
For some on- and off-campus students, cash is the preferred method of payment, but dining halls don’t accept cash. Those students are forced to use Lioncash or a Commuter Meal Plan to purchase food.
Those who want to purchase items with cash at residence halls can only do so at The Big Onion, Good2Go, Bluespoon Market, and SiSu.
The reason for the limited array of cash-accepting vendors is the cost of labor to manage cash transactions, according to James Richard, Associate Director of Residential Dining.
“Housing and Food Services is part of Auxiliary Services at Penn State, so it’s a big operation,” Richard said. “It costs a lot of money for us to get cash bags and manage a cash bag system, because of the number of hours we operate and the number of cashiers we have.”
To find how much Penn State spent to accept cash versus the amount of cash it accepted, in terms of labor, a cost analysis for all residential dining was implemented. The analysis showed that most units at residence halls collect the smallest percentage of cash on campus. That small percentage was enough for Penn State to discontinue cash payment at dining options in South, and some areas of North, East, Pollock, and West halls.
“The decision was made to save that money,” Richard said. “Since Housing and Food Services is part of Auxiliary Services, our goal is to specifically serve our on-campus resident, who generally don’t use cash. Over 99 percent of our business in residential dining is done with the swipe card.”
During the cost analysis it was found that South Halls was using between $10,000 to $12,000 a month in labor to manage the cash bag system. Penn State also found that SiSu and Bluespoon have the highest percentage of cash transactions on campus, in terms of sales.
“We think that’s because those units are closest to the staff areas,” Richard said. “A lot of our staff don’t use their cards and instead like to use the money right out of their pocket. They took in the largest percentage of cash on campus so those two units will be the last to convert if we choose to.”
Along with SiSu and Bluespoon Market, The Big Onion and Good2Go are two other options that still accept cash. Those two units at East Halls accept cash now, but will no longer take cash payments once the renovations to Findlay Commons commence in 2016.