This story about restaurants that only accept electronic payment set me wondering. I know that under legal tender laws a business can set a policy on what forms of payment it will accept, but that only applies if no debt exists prior to the time of payment. I think this creates a problem for restaurants trying to impose a "no cash" policy. Normally you only pay for your meal after you have eaten it, so the debt is incurred when you eat the meal, and the payment happens some minutes later.

Am I right in thinking that that legal tender laws would apply in this situation? If you provide payment in cash, the restaurant cannot then claim you haven't paid your debt.

Note: not a duplicate of this question because it did not consider the delay between incurring the debt and paying it.

  • Some of the restaurants referred to function like stores: you get your item(s) and pay, without creating a debt at all. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 23:14

1 Answer 1



A debt is created by a contract (among other ways not relevant here). A contract for a restaurant does not contemplate the creation of a debt, payment is to be contemporaneous with the service.

Presuming that the customer was made aware that cash payment was not acceptable and that they chose to enter the contract, by ordering, then they accepted that term. Not abiding by it is a breach of the contract.

Now, if the customer did not pay and the restaurant sued for the amount (plus damages) and won, that would be a debt for which cash must be accepted.

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    You've said that "a contract for a restraunt does not contemplate the creation of a debt, payment is to be contemporaneous with the service", but you haven't addressed the delay between eating the meal and paying. Surely even if the delay is only a few minutes that means it is not contemporaneous. Or is there some rule about the minimum amount of delay required to prevent it being contemporaneous? Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 16:18
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    Yes, a reasonable delay is contemporaneous.
    – Dale M
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 19:49
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    @Obie2.0 - If at the time you place the order the restaurant says, please note that we don't accept cash payments, do you wish to continue with the order?, if you then commit to the order you've entered into a contract that includes a non-cash payment. Any delay between time of order and completion of order is irrelevant (assuming it is in fact completed on the agreed date).
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 10:24
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    @nnnnnn - So your argument is that a contract can override the "legal tender for all debts" rule? Contracts cannot usually override federal law. Also, what if the restaurant does not say that it does not accept cash payments?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 17:34
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    @DaleM - But I posed an example where the payment is not contemporaneous. Or if that does not satisfy you because you believe the delivery is the service, not the food preparation, imagine a situation where the restaurant says that I can pay later because I forgot my debit card. Still not a debt? What if I then do not pay for months. Still not a debt?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 22:32

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