By Nancy Weingartner
At one time we were all content to just have “everybody know our name” at hospitality locales, now we want them to remember our face. UFood Grill, a fast-casual healthy restaurant chain where every menu item is under 700 calories, is introducing facial-recognition software to help speed up the ordering process at its kiosks.
The kiosk at the chain’s first standalone street location at Metro Station in Owings Mills, Maryland, had only been operational for a week when we talked to Samantha “Sam” Rincione, vice president of franchise development, about customer acceptance.
So far, so good, Rincione says. It helps, she adds, that the location is across the street from a college, below an apartment building and nearby for young office workers. “There’s been a lot of talk on social media,” she says, adding, “We’re the second restaurant in the U.S. to have facial recognition live.”
Diners can choose the facial recognition option, or just put in their phone number if they want to retrieve previous orders. Instant recognition can be a big timesaving deal, by the way, since some of their customer base come in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, many are creatures of habit and order the same item every visit, Rincione says. Cashiers, live people, are also available for any technology-adverse customers.
The facial recognition software is an add-on cost of $5,000 for two kiosks from their vendor, Nextep Systems. Not a big expense, Rincione says.
The process to log into the system is easy. Customers choose the facial recognition option, place their face in the rectangle on the screen and within seconds their picture is taken, stored and the order form is up. On the next visit, their face is scanned and their order history is uploaded. Customers can order and pay in fewer than 10 seconds, the company says.
The facial recognition kiosks will be standard in new units, Rincione says, including the five stores already in the pipeline. Older stores also have the option of adding the kiosks.
On its website, Nextep says self-ordering customers spend 15 percent more on average than those ordering from a person. It also speeds up the ordering process, allowing people to move through the queue faster.
Since no good technology goes unpunished, there’s already a maker of anti-surveillance clothing that obscures wearers from facial recognition, according to the Guardian. But the disruptive bar scans on clothing isn’t to hinder someone from ordering the veggie wrap so much as to discourage Amazon face scans in its physical locations. Facebook scanning our faces to find us new friends is a whole other deal.