In what is claimed to be a world first, a new restaurant concept has opened in eastern China where customers can pay for their lunch with a smile.

Yum China Holdings has launched the new restaurant concept KPRO by KFC in Hangzhou, China. It serves seasonal produce and an assortment of made to order salads, panini and roasted chicken, but, more interestingly, the restaurant concept is cash-free and customers pay via a face scan.

KPRO’s diners can select what they want from a digital display board. The board then takes a facial scan, a mobile phone number is entered, and this information is then cross-referenced with a government database, and that’s it, no need to reach for a wallet.

The chain, the largest fast-food business in China, is using Alipay’s Smile to Pay facial recognition payment solution to verify the identity of customers and facilitate payment. The system can recognize you even if you grow a beard or put on a wig. It is not fooled by photographs, as the scan is carried in three dimensions, and if it does not recognize you, you are simply rejected.

Big Brother watching?

While facial recognition is already used in other sectors, developer technology giant Alibaba says that this is the first commercial application of the payment technology globally, and has rejected concerns about identify theft saying that neither it, nor its partners, retain any of the information gathered.

In addition to facial recognition payment, the KPRO concept incorporates other new technologies to provide customers with a “convenient and connected in-restaurant experience”, and is aimed at a young, technology aware customer base.

With no traditional ordering counter, customers are able to avoid queuing by ordering at digital kiosks or using their mobile phones to scan QR codes and order at their tables. KPRO staff will then serve the freshly prepared food directly to table.