Panera Bread Tests Amazon’s Palm-Scanning Technology

The system seems fast and convenient, but skeptics worry.

March 23, 2023

ST. LOUIS—Panera Bread is checking out Amazon’s palm-scanning technology as it seeks a way to give customers a faster way to pay for food and collect loyalty rewards, according to CNBC. Dubbed Amazon One, the identification technology is already used in dozens of Amazon-owned Whole Foods locations, Amazon Go stores and some stadiums and arenas. Now, Panera, which has 2,000-plus outlets, is testing the system in two company-owned St. Louis locations.

“We think payment-plus-loyalty identification is the secret sauce that can unlock a really personalized, warm and efficient experience for our guests in our cafes,” said George Hanson, chief digital officer for Panera.

Panera plans to expand the test in the next few months, including to some franchised stores. To use the system, diners must link their loyalty program accounts to Amazon One, a task that can be performed anywhere. They also need to enable loyalty identification and payment for their accounts.

Amazon has faced some backlash from consumers and privacy experts for its use of biometrics, which use biological measurements to identify people. Last week, one Amazon Go customer filed a lawsuit in New York claiming the retailer broke a city law that requires businesses to post signs informing customers when facial recognition is in use.

Others have expressed concerns about the security palm scans because the data collected is stored in the cloud. In March, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado dropped Amazon One from the venue after pressure from privacy groups.

Panera chose Amazon One because it is contactless, customers must opt in to use it and individuals cannot be identified by their palm alone. According to Amazon, the palm images collected are encrypted and sent to a “custom-built area in the cloud” where the company creates a unique palm signature. “All of those things are the reasons why we think this particular technology solution is safe, secure and very guest centric,” Hanson said.

This is Amazon Go’s second collaboration with a large foodservice operation. In late 2021, it teamed with Starbucks to open pickup cafes.

In November, Panera opened a digital-ordering-forward store in New York City.