Chinese Restaurant Launches With Kiosks That Enable Ordering And Payment Via Facial Recognition

September 5, 2017 by Dave Haynes

Self-service ordering stations on touch-driven displays are getting mainstreamed by giant QSRs like McDonald’s, but a Chinese company tied in with KFC is taking the tech a step further by building facial recognition and payments into the screens.

Yum China Holdings has launched a new restaurant concept, KPRO by KFC, in Hangzhou, China (near Shanghai) with a set of free-standing ordering kiosks in the stores.

With made to order salads, gourmet coffees and craft beer, this is definitely not a KFC. KPRO is also different in that a key feature of the new restaurant is the integration of Alipay’s new “Smile to Pay” facial recognition payment solution. The tech enables diners to pay without whipping out a payment card. The e-commerce solution, related to Alibaba, uses multi-step authentication that includes a biometric facial scan and then a mobile phone number to verify the identity of customers and finish off the payment.

This is the first use, anywhere, of Smile to Pay.

“Yum China has a history of adopting innovative technologies to enhance in-store dining experience and we could think of no better place to pilot this advanced technology. Smile to Pay will bring another level of convenience for customers,” says Jidong Chen, Ant Financial’s director of biometric identification technology. “We are excited to introduce Smile to Pay to KPRO customers.” 

It gets complicated, but Ant owns Alipay. It is not, technically, part of Alibaba, but Alibaba founder Jack Ma owns it.

In addition to facial recognition payment, says a press release, KPRO incorporates other cutting-edge technology throughout the restaurant to provide customers with a convenient and connected in-restaurant experience. With no traditional ordering counter, customers are able to ‘skip the queue’ by ordering at digital kiosks or using their mobile phones to scan QR codes and order at their tables. KPRO staff then serve the freshly prepared food directly to the tables – enabling customers to enjoy their experience, without distraction. 

For clarity, this is one of those rare instances in digital signage when technology billed as facial recognition really is doing that – doing a lookup of faces in a database to verify identity. Endlessly, digital signage marketers with camera-based audience measurement software call what they do facial recognition, when it is just facial pattern detection – algorithms written to detect the shape and unique geometry of faces to estimate gender, age and emotion. They DON’T look up faces in a database, which would freak the hell out of the average shopper and make privacy advocates crazy.

You can also see from the KPRO restaurant image that there is a one wide by five high video wall feature on one of the exterior walls.

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