ResTech

Malibu Poke Is Banking On Facial Recognition Payments

Step right up! There’s a new way to pay for dinner when ordering at automated kiosks. Consumers can simply place their order and smile for the camera.

Self-service kiosks have become a growing trend in fast food service. Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are leveraging them to provide the faster, more convenient ordering experience customers crave and to trim costs associated with human cashiers (as well as operational inefficiencies).

McDonald’s, Subway and Panera are a few of the biggest names in the fast food and fast-casual industry that have introduced kiosks to boost labor efficiency and put control of the ordering experience squarely in the consumer’s hands.

At a kiosk, customers don’t feel the pressure to make up their mind quickly. They don’t panic and simply say “yes” to a product that is being upsold to them. They’re free to browse, which often does result in successful upselling of products the customer really does want.

Some restaurants are now taking the self-serve kiosk to the next level by enabling biometrically secured payments. Biometrics measure a characteristic such as a fingerprint, eyeprint or voiceprint and compares it to one that is stored in the system to verify customers’ identities.

One restaurant that’s introducing this futuristic payment method is Malibu Poke in Dallas-area Oak Lawn. The poke bowl trend originated in Hawaii and features marinated, raw sashimi-grade fish. Guests can customize the rest of the ingredients to suit their taste, such as edamame and wasabi aioli.

Because poke bowls are such a big trend in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, however, serving good fish isn’t enough. That’s why Malibu Poke also offers some unusual additions: bonito flakes (bits of dried, smoked bonito fish), arare (small, round Japanese crackers) and locally sourced micro greens.

Of course, enabling customers to pay with facial recognition also generates buzz and could help bring foot traffic through the door. The experience helps differentiate Malibu Poke from the wave of fast-casual poke spots that are trending across North Texas this year.

And at Malibu Poke, biometrics aren’t just for payments: Once a customer has used the software once, the kiosk will recognize his face at each visit and remember his favorite poke bowl from last time to make the ordering process even more seamless.

A year ago, paying by facial recognition might have felt like a gimmick, but thanks to the iPhone X, the concept has gone mainstream. Many customers are willing to give it a try, despite concerns over the security of the feature, with white-hat hackers successfully fooling the technology with facial masks.

The good news is that facial recognition is still in its infancy — a phase when bugs and vulnerabilities are to be expected. If it does catch on as a user authentication method, there is nowhere for the technology to go but up, so paying with one’s face can only become more accurate and secure as time goes on.

In dining, the opportunities presented by facial recognition go beyond simply moving customers through the line a little faster and beyond offering a unique experience — because as this technology finds a home in more QSR and fast casual settings, it will simply become the new normal.

Once the novelty wears off, restaurant kiosks that use biometric identification can still give those establishments a boost by customizing the consumer experience and offering items based on what that person has ordered in the past.

Upselling and cross-selling can become much more targeted because the customer’s individual likes are known. Furthermore, loyalty points can be assigned, tracked and awarded automatically — no paper punch cards required.

Now that’s a good reason to smile for the camera.

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