Panera Bread tests Amazon’s palm scanning technology

A sign on the facade of the Panera Bread restaurant on November 9, 2021 in Novato, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Panera Bread is in the pilot phase Amazons Louis palm scanning technologies to offer customers a faster way to connect to their loyalty and payment program.

The café-bakery chain, which has long been considered a leader in restaurant technology, is the latest restaurant to use what the tech giant has called Amazon One. It has already rolled out in dozens of Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores, Amazon Go stores, and select stadiums and arenas.

Panera has over 2,000 locations and has over 52 million members in its loyalty program, representing a big expansion opportunity for Amazon One. An Amazon spokesperson declined to share details of existing PDA-based payment system subscriptions.

For now, Panera is starting small with just two of its own restaurants in its hometown of St. Louis.

“We believe that payment plus loyalty identification is the secret sauce that can unlock a truly personalized, warm and effective experience for our guests in our cafes,” Panera Chief Digital Officer George Hanson told CNBC.

Panera hopes to expand the test to 10 to 20 restaurants over the next few months, including some franchised ones, Hanson said.

Palm scanners are located near the restaurant checkouts. To use them, customers must link their loyalty program accounts to Amazon One, which they can do at home or at a restaurant. They also need to enable loyalty identification and payment for their accounts.

Privacy issues

Amazon has faced some backlash from consumers and privacy experts over its use of biometrics, which uses biological measurements to identify someone. Amazon Go customer filed Thursday’s lawsuit in New York alleging that a retailer violated a city law that requires it to post signs informing shoppers that it uses facial recognition.

Security Experts warned that even a palm scan could be dangerous because the data is stored in the cloud. Last March, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado expelled Amazon One from the floor after privacy groups forced it to rethink its decision.

But Hanson said Panera chose Amazon’s technology for three reasons: it’s contactless, customers have to sign up, and you can’t identify a person just by the palm of their hand.

“All of these things are the reasons why we consider this particular technology solution to be safe, reliable and very guest-centric,” he said.

For its part, Amazon claims that the palm images are encrypted and sent to a secure “custom-created area in the cloud” where the company creates a unique palm signature.

This is Amazon’s second technical collaboration with a major restaurant company. From the end of 2021, he began to open a pickup cafe with Starbucks using Amazon Go cashless technology. Like Panera, the coffee chain was looking for new ways to make it quick and convenient for customers to pick up food and drinks.

Panera’s technology investment and popular loyalty program could make it more attractive to investors. The restaurant company is now privately owned by JAB Holding, an investment arm of the Reimann family.

Last year, JAB attempted to take the chain back to the public through a deal with a specialty company to acquire restaurateur Danny Meyer and an initial public offering, but it failed due to difficult market conditions.

However, Wall Street Magazine Earlier this year, it was reported that Panera is once again eyeing an IPO if investors have an appetite for one.

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