Panera Bread experiments with Amazon's palm-recognition technology in St. Louis.

Panera Bread experiments with Amazon's palm-recognition technology in St. Louis.

March 21, 2023: Panera Bread is partnering with Amazon to pilot its Amazon One palm-scanning technology in two restaurants in St. Louis. The technology offers a faster way for customers to connect to their loyalty program and pay for their purchases. Amazon One has already been implemented in several Amazon-owned Whole Foods locations, Amazon Go stores, and some stadiums and arenas. Panera’s loyalty program has over 52 million members, providing a significant expansion opportunity for Amazon One, which is designed to be both contactless and secure.

Panera’s Chief Digital Officer, George Hanson, said that the combination of payment and loyalty identification is the “secret sauce” that could enable a personalized, efficient experience for guests in its cafes. The technology allows customers to link their loyalty program accounts to Amazon One at home or in the restaurant and enable payment and loyalty identification for their accounts.

Panera plans to expand the pilot to 10-20 more restaurants in the coming months, including some operated by franchisees. However, Amazon has faced criticism from consumers and privacy experts for its use of biometrics, which use biological measurements to identify individuals. A customer filed a lawsuit against Amazon Go last year, alleging that the retailer broke the city’s law that requires it to inform customers when it’s using facial recognition.

However, Hanson said that Panera chose Amazon’s technology because customers have to opt in, the process is contactless, and a person cannot be identified by their palm alone. Amazon encrypts palm images and sends them to a secure area in the cloud, where the company creates a unique palm signature.

This is Amazon’s second collaboration with a large restaurant company after it opened pickup cafes with Starbucks using its Amazon Go cashierless technology in late 2021. Panera’s technology investments and popular loyalty program could make it more attractive to investors. The restaurant company is currently owned by JAB Holding, the investment arm of the Reimann family. Last year, JAB attempted to take the chain public again through a deal with restaurateur Danny Meyer’s special purpose acquisition company and an initial public offering, but it fell through due to market conditions.