If you were running a book, there would have been long odds on a 16th-century pub in a Suffolk village being the first in the country to go cashless but The Boot, Freston, Suffolk did just that.

So, obviously we went along to take a look.

After their pub had been derelict for nine years, the people of Freston probably thought there was very little chance of it even opening again.

It did just that last June, after chef and experienced hospitality business owner Mike Keen realised his vision of re-opening the once proud pub that he drove past every day.

"It's more idiot-proof than having cash."

Being a new business gave him carte blanche to try new things from the off, so he decided that cash would never be part of the plan. He explains: "It just made sense to go cashless. The main points being: management time cashing up at the end of the night; cash can go missing; you don't have to go in town to get change every couple of days; and there's that risk of holding cash on the premises.

"Counterfeit is also a problem that pubs have to take the hit for if it is flagged up at the bank, whereas with card it is all guaranteed and covered. You just press a button at the end of the night to count everything up and it's all integrated with the accounting software. It's more idiot-proof than having cash."


Boot Freston Bar


So, plenty of positives. But surely not everyone in the village was keen on the move?

"It was a lot less of a problem than I thought it was going to be," he continues. "I was going to do it anyway but the amount of negativity has been minimal. It is more of a mindset than a logistical or physical problem. People over the age of 40 are so used to doing cash, so it is just getting used to it. 99.9 per cent of people have a bank account and those that don't or are off the grid don't tend to come into pubs anyway."

The majority of payments are made by card but a growing number – around 10 per cent – are settled with smartphones.

One of the few downsides of only taking electronic payments is the charge from equipment providers, as Mike explains.

"There's a transaction fee but it's quite competitive out there now and we are looking at getting that below one per cent. But you get charged a fee by the bank for paying cash in anyway, so going card-only is financially better for us."

Other businesses have been in contact to try to follow The Boot's path. One difficulty for them is managing the transition from cash to cashless.

Mike advises: "As long as you put notices up and tell people. It's at least a six-month process. It will snowball now and at some point it won't be viable to mint money." Move over, Silicon Valley

Another benefit for The Boot has been the publicity, as news of its cashless status hit national and international headlines and TV channels. "It was fantastic," Mike continues. "You think it isn't that much of an interesting story but because it's a pub and the industry is seen as being traditional and hardly Silicon Valley cutting-edge, it was."


Boot Freston food


Cash is one of the few things missing from The Boot. There are the eight cask beers, and an ever-changing menu of home cooked traditional pub grub featuring many ingredients and herbs grown in the pub's own garden.

That isn't all you'll find outside. An outhouse has been converted into a cinema (a project supported by Pub is the Hub) ducks swim in the pond Mike dug himself, then there's the Icelandic ram, two Hebridean ewes, a turkey (who will survive this Christmas and beyond) and Grippe the raven.

There are also two petanque courts, a wedding reception area, and dining space to complement the 75 covers inside.


Boot Freston Raven


With Freston having a population of only 100, Mike says the pub needs to create enough interest for people to keep driving there. "You can't sit still because there is always competition coming up. New places are opening up all the time and people will go and try them out because they want to try new things. Everything we do is because we are passionate about it, and it adds value."

It's a pub with loads going on and one from which you'll always return with as much money in your wallet as you started with. Well, your physical wallet at any rate.