Panera Bread is testing Amazon’s palm-scanning technology in St. Louis to provide consumers with a speedier method to join and pay for their loyalty program.
The bakery-café company, which has long been regarded as a leader in restaurant technology, is the latest to embrace what Amazon has termed Amazon One. It’s already in use at dozens of Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores, Amazon Go outlets, and select stadiums and arenas.
Panera has over 2,000 locations and a reward program with over 52 million members, providing a significant growth opportunity for Amazon One. An Amazon official declined to give information about existing signups for the palm-based payment method.
Panera is starting small for the time being, with only two company-owned locations in its hometown of St. Louis.
“We believe that payment combined with loyalty identification is the key to unlocking a truly personalized, warm, and efficient experience for our guests in our cafes,” Panera Chief Digital Officer George Hanson told CNBC.
According to Hanson, Panera plans to expand the test to 10 to 20 more stores over the next few months, including some managed by franchisees.
The palm scanners are near the restaurant’s cash registers. Customers must link their reward program accounts to Amazon One in order to use them, which they can do at home or in the restaurant. They’ll also need to enable account loyalty identification and payment.
Concerns about personal privacy
Customers and privacy experts have criticized Amazon’s use of biometrics, which utilize biological data to identify someone. An Amazon Go customer filed a complaint in New York on Thursday, alleging that the store violated a city ordinance that requires it to post signs warning customers that it uses facial recognition.
Security experts have warned that because palm scan data is kept in the cloud, it potentially poses a risk. Amazon One was removed from Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado in March after privacy advocates urged the venue to reconsider.
However, Hanson stated that Panera chose Amazon’s technology for three reasons: it is contactless, customers must opt-in, and a person cannot be identified only by their palm.
“All of that is why we believe this particular technology solution is safe, secure, and very guest-centric,” he said.
According to Amazon, palm photos are encrypted and transported to a secure, “custom-built area in the cloud” where the business generates a unique palm signature.
This is Amazon’s second technology relationship with a major restaurant chain. It began operating pickup cafes with Starbucks in late 2021, utilizing its Amazon Go cashier-less technology. The coffee company, like Panera, has been seeking innovative methods for consumers to swiftly and conveniently pick up their meals and drinks.
Panera’s investments in technology and popular loyalty program may make it more appealing to investors. JAB Holding, the Reimann family’s investing arm, currently owns the restaurant firm.
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JAB sought to re-publicize the business last year through a partnership with restaurateur Danny Meyer’s special purpose acquisition company and an initial public offering, but the deal fell through owing to market conditions.
However, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that Panera is considering an IPO again, as long as investors are interested.