Old habits die hard for fast food fans in Seattle. Dick’s Drive-In, the burger mainstay that has been taking cash only for 62 years, began accepting more modern forms of payment last week at its location in Wallingford, but a lunchtime visit Monday showed cash is still king.
Under sunny skies, a steady stream of customers filled the parking lot and waited at several cashier windows to place orders for cheeseburgers, Deluxes, Specials, fries and shakes. And almost everyone I observed paying or spoke to after they got their order said they’re just used to using cash after all these years.
Andrew Angelos and his buddy Charlie Taylor, both 18, sat on the hood of Angelos’ 1966 Mustang looking like some sort of throwback to the restaurant’s early days. Both were born and raised in Seattle and both said they had no plans to switch to one of Dick’s new payment methods, be it credit card or mobile payment such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.
“I might if I came here and forgot cash,” said Taylor, as he and Angelos both laughed at the prospect of going to Dick’s without remembering to have cash.
Angelos said it was his last day in Seattle before he heads to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music. Taylor leaves for Cal Poly in two weeks. Both knew a Dick’s visit was essential before leaving as they ate identical orders of two cheeseburgers, fries and a vanilla shake.
The glass-fronted restaurant was peppered with posters alerting customers to the change in payment policy. Credit card machines now sit in the windows not far from the straws and napkins. Cute slogans liken the change to the biggest thing to hit Seattle since a SuperSonics NBA championship or since Macklemore performed on top of the Capitol Hill location.
Some cashiers wore T-shirts with wording that could have been directed at Angelos: “Remember when you drove your first car to Dick’s? This is almost that good.”
Tony Matteo, 63, is a graduate of the nearby University of Washington. He’s been coming to Dick’s since 1970. He lives in West Seattle but had to run an errand in north Seattle and admitted he can’t go by a Dick’s without stopping.
“I always have cash on me,” Matteo said. “I bank online, I do everything online. I didn’t even think of using a credit card today.”
He figures his 24-year-old son will be the one to embrace the new payments. He’ll be one of the early adopters if he does, as GeekWire learned that in the week since coming online at the one location, about 20 percent of customers are paying with something other than cash.
I’ve been in Seattle 20 years and consider myself a Dick’s fan, if not a hardcore regular. On different occasions, I’ve pulled out of the parking lot in Wallingford, Capitol Hill and Crown Hill because I realized I didn’t have cash on hand. And I’ve paid the fee at nearby ATMs to satisfy the urge.
Monday I used Apple Pay for the first time to get a cheeseburger, fries and a small root beer. It was easy, and the food tasted exactly the same as all the times I paid for it with cash.
Mike and Carolyn Hill, school teachers from Ann Arbor, Mich., didn’t have any nostalgia to fall back on as they approached the counter to place an order along with their two young daughters. The family is visiting Seattle and British Columbia for 11 days, and while Mike had cash in his wallet, Carolyn told him to hold onto it since credit was an option.
The only debate left to settle was over the mustard that comes standard on the cheeseburger one of the girls ordered.
“Just scrape it off,” Carolyn said.