Panera Wants To Read Your Palm

The bakery chain is testing out Amazon’s contactless payment and loyalty system.

For any fans of corporations taking your personal information, storing it in a database, and using said data to sell more you even more things, you're in luck: Amazon announced on Wednesday that Panera Bread is slated to be the first restaurant to use Amazon One, which is Amazon's payment service that lets customers wave a palm to pay for their order and access Panera's loyalty program.

So far, the payment system is being tested in two St. Louis Panera locations (sorry, Bread Co. locations), and it will soon expand to other St. Louis–area stores and Seattle. By the end of 2023, the goal is to have palm payment in 10-20 stores.

Here's how Amazon One works: The technology creates a unique palm print per customer, which is linked to the customer's credit card and, if the customer has one, their Amazon account. In the case of Panera, the customer has the option to link payment to a MyPanera rewards account.

"This is a way to make the guest journey even more efficient and personalized, through a contactless, fast, and secure process so that they can enjoy what they love about Panera quicker and easier," George Hanson, Panera SVP and Chief Digital Officer, wrote in an email to TechCrunch. "Partnering with Amazon brings a scale and network that is attractive to us." The plan is to extend the system to Panera's 2,000-plus stores nationwide.

The palm-scanning technology was introduced by Amazon in 2020, then added to Amazon's retail stores in 2021. Amazon has defended the technology by claiming that it's more private than other biometric authentication data. Even though palm print images are encrypted and cloud-protected, that's still a wealth of customer data that Amazon (and by extension, Panera) didn't have before.

Panera aims to use this data to give customers a hyper-personalized experience. Customers would be greeted by name, get updates on their rewards, receive meal recommendations, and more.

Outside of the eerie privacy concerns (I don't need Panera to know MORE about me??), all of this feels unnecessary. It's Panera. It's where your aunt's book club gets coffee together at 7 a.m., and it's where I go when I need a safe space that lets me eat a sandwich while loudly FaceTiming my mom. Why overcomplicate it?