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Facial Recognition Payment for Restaurants

When most people think of image recognition technology, they conjure images of futuristic movies not restaurants. However, emerging technology is becoming more advanced every day and being adapted for a variety of industries. It was only a matter of time before facial recognition software made it to the dinner table.

It’s hard to keep up with tech trends, and even harder to constantly reinvest. Most restaurants only recently adopted wireless transaction options, so why should you consider forking out even more money to implement facial recognition payments for your business?

A rising trend

Historically, facial recognition had little to do with financial services. The software was predominantly used to catch criminals that match images in a law enforcement database or most recently as an added measure of airport security.

In a few countries, like China, facial recognition has become a common transaction method. The technology is still slow to take effect in the U.S. retail industry but projected to explode in the next five years. According to Business Wire, the U.S. facial recognition market is expected to grow to $10.15 billion by 2025.

As it turns out, the first business to allow face-based recognition for payment in the U.S., is in fact, a restaurant. In February of 2018 CaliBurger, an international fast casual burger chain based in California, added the AI-enabled technology to their touch screen kiosks. This followed a well-received pilot of face-based recognition technology that allowed customers to log in to loyalty accounts.

How does it work?

In general application, a facial recognition system uses artificial intelligence to analyze a person’s face against a database of photos. In the case of retail transactions, the customer’s image would sync to their credit provider or bank, allowing them to use their face as a form of payment at participating locations.

Is it secure?

Can a customer’s doppelgänger come in to eat on their dime? What about holding up a photo to trick AI? While it might seem like a payment method out of a sci-fi movie, most facial recognition technology is surprisingly precise.

Imaging software has rapidly aged into intelligence, surpassing common fears and technical hiccups with innovation. Many companies incorporate a “liveness test” that requires the user to turn their head in real time to avoid impersonation or fraud.

While some companies boast near-perfect accuracy, impersonation risk and security is largely dependent on the software used.

Profit versus privacy

For facial recognition payments to work, restaurant patrons would need to have their picture taken at a specific location or be included in a business database. It’s ill-advised to make this the only option of payment for your business, but CaliBurger is already reporting a rise in customer loyalty and feedback since launching the new technology in 2018.

While increased financial security and customer loyalty seem like no-brainers, many fear that imaging recognition could lead to serious ethical dilemmas and exploitation of individual privacies. With experts and financial analysts predicting rapid adoption and profit in the coming years, the decision to implement the technology may come down to ethics.

Not just a payment method, a loyalty tool, too.

CaliBurger’s first foray into using facial recognition technology allowed loyalty program customers to log in to a self-service ordering kiosk. Once logged in, the guest can retrieve past orders, including a record of how their burger was dressed, speeding up the ordering process and getting them through the line more quickly. The self-order kiosks at a BurgerFi in Kissimmee, Florida, give guests the option to store their facial geometry data and use that to store past orders. This is precisely the kind of enhanced customer experience and personalized service that engenders restaurant customer loyalty.

  • “Facial recognition is part of our strategy to enable the restaurant and retail industries to provide the same kinds of benefits and conveniences in the built world that customers experience in the digital world.”

    John Miller, Chairman and CEO of Cali Group »

  • “The trifecta of privacy, convenience, and security may accelerate biometric mobile payment technology. But are we trading our privacy for convenience?”

    Artificial Intelligence Mobile Payments »

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