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Exacting Change

Restaurant owner abolishes pennies, nickels, and dimes

  In a 2013 Google+ Hangout with five YouTubers, President Barack Obama was questioned by acclaimed author and vlogger, John Green, regarding the death of the penny – a simple yet efficient idea that Green was wholeheartedly behind. The President agreed that this abolition would be a great idea, but said “It’s one of those things where people get attached emotionally to the way things have been.” (The Daily Conversation, YouTube 2013)

  After watching this Hangout, Mario Stemberger, Chef and co-owner of the Dancing Avocado Kitchen (DAK), began researching the truth regarding the opportunity cost of handling pennies. His discoveries not only drew the pennies into question, but the nickels and dimes as well.

  The US Mint shows data on raw material costs, seigniorage, and distribution of the coins. Considering that two of our most used coins cost more to make than they are worth as currency, the Chef realized the ridiculousness of continuing to facilitate them. His plan to proceed was a simple, almost laughable idea.

  In April, 2015, the DAK removed pennies, nickels, and dimes from their register, safes, and all day to day operations! Their strategy has alleviated the buying, delivering, storing, stocking, and of course the endless counting of these coins. Employees and customers alike are now (mostly) free from the three coins’ weight and bio transfer.  Regarding menu prices and taxing, the restaurant took into consideration the state tax, and then modified menu prices to land on the even quarter – almost every time. Angela Stemberger calls it “gracious rounding.” Every thirty or so transactions end with either owing a cent or a cent being owed – as for the nickels and dimes, the transition was seamless.

  Annually, each American spends $3.65 minutes futzing with pennies (Mallaby, Washington Post 2006). The Stembergers believe that for the DAK, cutting pennies, nickels and dimes would save about 2 hours per week, or 2.5 days annually.

    In 2011, it cost the US Mint .02 cents to mint one Lincoln penny. (US Mint, 2011) To the DAK, this coin reformation makes plenty of “cents.”

  While nearly 100 million dollars would be saved by retiring the penny, which is small comparatively, perhaps when politicians talk about budget cuts, this could be an easy place to start exacting change.

The Dancing Avocado Kitchen, founded in 1998, has always admired benchmarking ideas. They were Daytona’s first juice bar and vegetarian restaurant. Chef Mario said regarding his decision to remove the small coins, “With such a large family and so many staff, not to mention tens of thousands of customers, one tends to think of simplicity, efficiency, and time management in a whole different way.”  The figure below shows the new pricing sheet for the DAK, according to the FL State Tax rate.

The Dancing Avocado Kitchen Proclaims, “We don’t need your two cents!”

Who: Mario and the Dancing Avocado Kitchen
What: Removed pennies, nickels and dimes from the cash drawer

When: April 2015

Where: The Dancing Avocado Kitchen, Daytona Beach, FL

Why: It is news because they are the first restaurant to do it. It is being done to save time, money, energy, to stay cleaner, to promote health and better opportunity cost, to prove that removal of change that costs more to produce than it is worth will not cause earthquakes or the economy to crash, and it does not harm the customer's pocket or his business.


            The Dancing Avocado Kitchen (DAK) in Daytona Beach, FL, removed pennies, nickels, and dimes from its cash drawer in March of 2015.  

  Well aware that the US Mint is currently creating pennies and nickels at a cost of more than twice their worth, Chef Mario Stemberger, owner of the Dancing Avocado Kitchen, sees this as an insult to simple economics. “If the government is going to waste our time and money with insignificant change, we’re just going to have to remove it from our registers,” said Stemberger. The Dancing Avocado Kitchen has since removed the pennies, nickels, and dimes from its register, enabling a smoother, faster restaurant environment.

            Every register transaction at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen now comes out to the nearest quarter. The restaurant has adjusted its prices for meals, drinks, charms, and rubber ducks, taking into account the current Florida state tax rate. While some may question the accounting of this method, Stemberger assures his patrons that roughly every forty transactions, either the restaurant owes you a penny or you owe the restaurant a penny. And to alleviate any potential grievances, there is now a large dish of pennies located at the register, left over from the restaurant’s excessive supply, for you to take or leave a penny as you wish.

            “Time spent counting and handling small change was time and energy best spent elsewhere,” said Stemberger. Time that was previously spent handling customer transactions and keeping a fully loaded register has now been time that has been refocused on other restaurant activity. Stemberger calculates that his team members use up to 3.5 hours per week, or 182 hours annually, to count the mostly-zinc pennies, mostly-copper nickels, and mostly-nickel dimes. Now, the Dancing Avocado Kitchen staff can spend these hours providing its patrons with an even better dining experience.

            The Dancing Avocado Kitchen is well known in the Daytona Beach area for their slogan, “Where carnivore and herbivore eat together in harmony.” It has been voted ‘Best Vegan Restaurant’ and has received numerous 5-star reviews by newspaper, radio, and magazine alike.