KFC's new concept store in China is all about what's fresh and new, with an emphasis on healthier fare like salads, fresh fruit juice and roasted chicken. Technology plays into the strategy too, and the restaurant is the first location to accept a new Chinese payment system using facial recognition technology.
The concept restaurant, called KPRO, is in Hangzhou, the eastern Chinese city that is home to Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group. Alibaba-affiliated payment service, Alipay, created a new technology called Smile to Pay that scans people's faces to accept their payment. Watch it in action in the video above (if you can get past the cheesy instrumental soundtrack.) It shows a woman testing the program's powers of recognition by wearing heavy makeup or slipping on a wig with thick blonde bangs. People input their smartphone number as well as getting scanned. Alipay says its technology can detect if fraudsters are holding up a photo or video of your face instead of the real thing, but the service also says it will cover losses in case of identity theft.
China is already a leader in digital and mobile payment systems, through Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay as well as Alipay from Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial. Big Chinese tech companies are competing on facial recognition software too; search giant Baidu said last month that it was testing its facial recognition software for staff at a Beijing airport.
Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, spun off its China division last year. The newly created Yum China has been experimenting to see what China's middle class might want next. At a Pizza Hut concept shop in Shanghai called ph+, a robot escorts guests to their tables. When Ad Age stopped by this weekend, sadly, the robot was out of order.