Panera tests Amazon One palm payments at 2 cafes


Dive Brief:

  • Panera is using Amazon One’s palm scanning technology for payments and to connect customers with its loyalty program in St. Louis, the cafe chain announced Wednesday. The pilot will begin with two stores in that city, said George Hanson, Panera’s SVP and chief digital officer.
  • The palm scanner makes it easier for customers ordering in person to use their MyPanera accounts and to access meal recommendations based on past orders, giving workers and customers more time to connect instead of inputting phone numbers or card details, Hanson said. 
  • This tech is focused primarily on reducing friction at the point-of-sale and improving the in-store customer experience, Hanson said, rather than saving time or labor. However, the tech will likely yield a marginal improvement in speed of service.

Dive Insight:

If the initial Amazon One pilot succeeds, the company will expand it to between 10 and 20 restaurants in the St. Louis and Seattle markets before eventually taking it nationwide, Hanson said. It’s starting in St. Louis because that’s Panera’s hometown.

Speed of service is a key performance indicator Panera will watch at the test cafes, Hanson said, but the technology’s performance will be evaluated by more qualitative questions about customer satisfaction. Ultimately, Panera bets that a more streamlined POS experience can translate into improved connections between customers and workers, Hanson said. Hanson also told Restaurant Dive that there was not yet a set per-unit cost for the technology.

“We started with the strategy and then figured out what’s the technology for that strategy, as opposed to starting with the technology and saying, ‘Well, what problem we can solve with this technology?’” Hanson said.

Here’s how the technology works: customers who have linked the MyPanera account with Amazon One can scan their palms using Amazon One’s scanner at the start of an in-store transaction. Once customers scan their palms, “Panera associates will be able to greet guests by name, communicate their available rewards, reorder their favorite menu items, or take another order of their choice.” 

Panera will not store personal palm data. When guests have completed their order, “they can simply scan their palm again to pay,” the company wrote in a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.

Panera will be the first national restaurant brand to use Amazon One’s payments technology alongside a loyalty program, the company said in the press release. 

“Over half of our sales are loyalty sales,” Hanson said. “On day one in that cafe, half of the [sales] volume are eligible guests who could benefit from this.”

Hanson said the chain is refocusing its technological development on in-store features after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Panera to pursue upgrades to its off-premise technology. 

“The investments we’re making are more and more around the cafe experience and the drive-thru experience,” Hanson said. “[For] so much of the order ahead and pickup and online orders for delivery, we’ve been working on that for the last several years.”

In February 2022, Panera unveiled one of these in-person innovations: its contactless dine-in service. Hanson said this service has been successful without much marketing support from Panera, showing a natural demand for in-restaurant, tech-enabled service.

“We never did a big marketing campaign or anything like that,” Hanson said. “That really tells us that people are finding it, they’re finding it a value, they’re increasingly counting on it.” 


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