THIEVES broke into a vegan restaurant and made off with the cash register – only to find the business was cash free.

Staff at Brighton’s plant-based pizzeria Purezza said they were “baffled”.

Manager Anna Kearney-Greig, 34, said: “We’re completely cashless. We don’t have any money on site – it’s all electronic.

“The thieves ripped the empty cash drawer out of the till, but we went cash free in February – we don’t use the thing any more.

“It’s all contactless. We do click and collect too.”

Anna said the burglars broke in early on Thursday morning and stole “a couple of bottles of alcohol” and a few iPads, which were later recovered.

She said: “One of the guys tried to bite off the security lock on an iPad we use for the digital till, but that actually gave us samples of his DNA from the saliva.

“I only started this week. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The burglary in St James’s Street comes amid a spate of break-ins in Brighton.

The locksmith mending Purezza’s door said he had just come back from repairing a smashed shop window on the seafront.

On Monday, a similar crime took place in London Road, when a thief barged into a café and again made off with the till, bottles of alcohol, and an iPad. The owner lost hundreds of pounds.

Purezza escaped lightly. Anna said: “It was a shock to have the cashless cash drawer pinched. We’re all stumped. They didn’t make off with much.”

Nonetheless, the burglary left Anna startled. She said: “When I heard there’d been a break-in, I thought the windows would be smashed. I got out of bed, on my bike, and down to the restaurant at 4am. The windows were fine.

“It happened around 3am. There were three men in total. They left fingerprints everywhere. Two were wearing caps and they had their hoods down. One was holding a flashlight, wearing a light-coloured hood.”

Anna said: “They seem to be targeting small local businesses. We’re a plant-based restaurant and pizzeria open since 2015. We have our own factory which makes plant-based cheese from cashew nuts, coconuts, and rice milk.

“We’re just baffled. Obviously the restaurant is a home for us all here, and it’s really sad, but we can have a little giggle about it.”

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “Police attended St James’s Street, Brighton, just before 4am on Thursday following reports of three men breaking in to a pizza restaurant. An area search was conducted but the suspects were not found. Anyone with information can call 101 quoting 130 of 12/09.”