Using facial recognition to order and pay for food has long been an intriguing concept for restaurants, albeit one that comes with a bit of a creep factor. But now that the pandemic has accelerated the need for contactless systems in restaurants, it may become more widespread.
Case in point: this week, Panasonic and Cali Group’s PopID announced a new partnership that lets restaurant customers pay with their faces at drive-thrus and kiosks. PopID’s technology, which includes its PopPay “wallet,” will be integrated into Panasonic’s ClearConnect Kiosk, which offers restaurants the hardware, software, and UI/UX design needed to install self-order kiosks at restaurants. The two companies will also jointly integrate PopPay at drive-thru systems.
Once customers register for a PopID account, they can use PopPay at any restaurant that accepts the technology. They’ll be able to view past orders and loyalty points, reorder items, and, of course, pay for their meals without the need for human interaction. You can watch a quick explainer video here.
Facial recognition at fast-casual and QSR restaurants has been slowly gaining momentum over the last couple years. Bite, which works with ToGo’s and Noodles World Kitchen, among other restaurants, also offers facial recognition in its kiosks. Some restaurants, namely Dallas-TX Malibu Poke, have offered face recognition for years.
PopID’s tech is already in a number of restaurants, including Cali Group-owned CaliBurger, Bojangles, and Dairi-O. The Panasonic partnership is meant to expand the number of PopID deployments.
The flip side, of course, is that users have to be comfortable with giving away their face data in order to use the this convenient, socially distanced form of ordering and payments. Biometric data remains a controversial topic and comes with its fair share of security and privacy concerns. That means restaurants and tech companies deploying these systems have a responsibility to communicate with customers about how they use the data — and how well they protect it.
In a pandemic-stricken world, some of these systems actually do more than let customers order and pay for meals. Cali Burger recently launched a modified system (using PopID) that can, as well as processing ordering and payments, take staff and guests’ temperatures. A handful of restaurants, including Cali Burger, are using this feature, and if the sensors detect someone has a fever, that person is not allowed to enter the building.
So while privacy concerns will always be a risk with facial recognition, the ability of these kiosks to actually ensure the safety of guests and staff could sway more folks to hand over their personal data. At the very least, the privacy tradeoff may seem more worth it.