Inside a cash register-free business


The City Café Bakery in downtown Kitchener, Ontario serves hot coffee, bagels, croissants, tarts and brick oven pizza with a quirky, outgoing staff and a neighborhood atmosphere. However, it does not have a cash register.

According to Bakers Journal, owner John Bergen, a former ceramics designer, wanted to open a bakery where he could "walk in anytime and it's a place where I can belong." For Bergen, that kind of business would involve simplicity and the honor system.

Bergen says. "What irritated me about going into [other bakeries], for example, was waiting in line for something as simple as getting a donut and a coffee. So the thought was, someone can pour his own coffee, grab his own bagel, cut it himself, throw the money in, and walk out. We don't touch 60% of the transaction."

Customers order their items, tally up the total and put their money in a fare box from an old bus. To make things simpler, prices are rounded off to the nearest quarter with taxes included. They do not take credit cards.

Every six months they check the numbers, and only once did they come up short. But, Bergen believes that customers are more likely to overpay than underpay. "Some people come in and want a $2.75 loaf of bread," he says, "but they see we're busy so they throw $3 in and walk out." The City Café Bakery also discourages tipping and they don't answer their phone, so that customers won't have to wait for service while an employee is on the phone. Woo hoo!

But, how's business? According to Bergen, every week the City Café Bakery dishes out 3,000 bagels, 1,300 croissants, 1,000 desserts, and an untold number of pizzas, sandwiches and loaves of bread.

Not too shabby.

B. Brandon Barker also writes for Political Machine.

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