Hill Country Goes Cashless After Burglars Kept Stealing Its Safes

The restaurant says the break-ins accelerated the switch to plastic.

Photo by Scott Suchman

A trio of burglars went after Hill Country Barbecue Market’s safe four times over the last three months, stealing tens of thousands of dollars before police arrested one of the suspects, an employee, this week. According to the Washington Post, which broke the news, the Penn Quarter barbecue hotspot tried different tactics to secure the safe after each incident, including bolting it to the wall and later securing it to the floor. Now, to prevent such thefts going forward, the restaurant is trying a new tactic: not putting cash in the safe in the first place. Beginning August 13, Hill Country is going cashless and will only accept credit, debit, or gift cards as payment.

“While cash accounts for a small minority of our transactions, there are often large amounts of cash in the restaurant due to the volume of business at Hill Country. By maintaining this cash on premises for any period of time, we inevitably have a less secure environment than one in which there is no cash around,” owner Marc Glosserman says in a statement posted on its website.

Glosserman tells Washingtonian they’d thought about going cashless previously, but the break-ins accelerated the change. (The New York locations, however, have no plans to go cashless.) Beyond the safety and theft issue, Glosserman says it’s just faster and more efficient to deal with cards, and the time staff spends counting, sorting, and depositing cash is costly to the business and takes away from customers and more productive work. He also argues that the use of cash is on the decline anyway. In the last year, it accounted for less than 7 percent of Hill Country’s transactions.

The restaurant will join a growing number of others that have ditched dollars and change, including, most notably, Sweetgreen.

Not everyone, though, thinks this is a good idea. Some opponents argue that it’s discriminatory toward low-income customers who might not have access to a credit or debit card. For this reason, a group of DC councilmembers introduced a bill in June that would prohibit restaurants from banning cash, Washington City Paper reported. But Glosserman says Hill Country’s decision is not politically motivated.

“We believe fervently that restaurants should be allowed to decide what form of payment to accept based on their own respective circumstances,” he says in his public statement. “Change is not always easy, and we anticipate there will be some bumps in the road as we make this transition.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.