Restaurants Put the Person Into Payments


Taking a tip from digital, restaurants are personalizing the in-person payment experience with diner data.

Take, for instance, Panera Bread, which is leveraging Amazon One pay-by-palm capabilities to identify loyalty members at the point of purchase. The fast-casual brand announced Wednesday (March 22) that it is rolling out the option, whereby consumers can pay for their purchase by scanning their palms, to members of its MyPanera rewards program, making the chain the first national restaurant to leverage the technology.

“Collaborating with Amazon Web Services to bring this service into our bakery-cafes is a natural extension of the tech-forward, guest-centric digital thinking that Panera is known for,” Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread and Panera Brands, said in a statement. “Our philosophy has been centered around leveraging best-in-class technology to create a better Panera experience and using that to deepen our relationship with our loyal guests.”

Chaudhary added that this payment technology offers a “frictionless, personalized, and convenient” experience for loyalty members.

The palm scanners are available at two locations in the restaurant chain’s home city, St. Louis, Missouri, with more deployments to come in the months ahead. Through the system, once loyalty members scan their palms, store employees will have the ability to greet the customer by their name, to explain available deals, and to prompt guests with their preferred menu items, personalizing the in-person experience as brands are personalizing their digital platforms.

In an Amazon blog post Wednesday discussing the partnership, Dilip Kumar, vice president, AWS applications, said the technology can be key to driving loyalty adoption and usage for restaurants by making the process of earning and redeeming rewards more intuitive.

“The MyPanera integration with Amazon One addresses a major pain point for the restaurant and retail industries: customers sometimes choose to skip loyalty programs because they prefer to get in and out with their purchase, rather than deal with the sign-up and redemption processes,” Kumar said. “For new guests who choose to sign up for MyPanera using Amazon One, enrollment [and redemption] is easy.”

Meanwhile, as Panera personalizes the on-site experience with in-restaurant technology, other brands are bringing eCommerce-like personalization to the drive-thru, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to identify customers and tailor menu boards to their preferences. Quick-service restaurant (QSR) giant Burger King, for one, has been doing this for years.

Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of voice, vision and touch automated technology firm Presto, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in an interview that, in some states, brands are even permitted to recognize customers by their license plate. In areas where this is not allowed, brands can still recognize a customer’s profile via their loyalty app.

“Of course, the person would have to opt into that,” Suri said, noting that this technology requires diners to sign up for the loyalty program or mobile app. “But once you set it up, it should be seamless.”