KFC To Launch ‘Smile To Pay’ Facial Recognition System Aimed At ‘Young, Tech-Savvy Consumers’

Customers dining at KFC in China will have a new way to pay for their meal — with a smile. Alibaba’s Ant Financial has teamed up with KFC to debut its new “smile to pay” service, according to Reuters.

The company behind the technology, Ant Financial, an Alibaba subsidiary, says its “Smile to Pay” technology simply needs one to two seconds of facial scanning with a 3D camera in addition to “live-ness detection algorithm” to check the identity of the person who is paying for their meal.

To guard against fraud, a customer must also enter their mobile phone number.

Jidong Chen, head of biometric identification technology at Ant Financial, said facial recognition software is more complicated than it seems.

“Taking the facial-recognition payment technology offline was no easy task.”

Back in 2015, a beta version of “Smile to Pay” was introduced by Jack Ma, who is the founder of Alibaba.

“On how we detect when someone’s photo is being manipulated when someone is falsely impersonating another person — we prevent this by merging software and hardware by linking sophisticated algorithms with the 3D camera.”

“Smile to Pay” can also effectively block attempts at using other people’s photos or video recordings to process payments.

“We can prevent biometric spoofing.”

In the official video, a young woman uses the “Smile To Pay” technology in a variety of different appearances. The woman tries to fool the machine while wearing both minimal and heavy makeup, in addition to wearing an assortment of wigs.

However, the machine was shown to accurately recognize the woman’s facial features each time an attempt at payment was made.

KFC 'Smile To Pay' face recognition
‘Smile To Pay’ facial payment system is a new way to pay for KFC meals in China. [Image by Ty Lim/Shutterstock]

The “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system is part of a drive by Yum China Holdings Inc. to lure a younger generation of consumers, according to Reuters.

U.S. parent Yum Brands Inc. is associated with Yum China. The company is trying to level up their growth in a country where food safety scares and the changing taste of the consumer have slowed down sales since 2012.

Yum encompasses over 7,685 outlets and is currently the largest fast food chain in the market. The company’s China store sales have also been slowly improving and, in fact, rose in the second quarter through its KFC brand.


The KFC restaurant that offers the facial payment system is also a much healthier version of the chain called, K Pro.

The menu in the store offers seasonal produce and made-to-order salads and paninis. The chicken on the menu is “roasted,” while drinks include freshly squeezed juices, gourmet coffees, as well as craft beer.

K Pro was introduced in July as a way to entice younger customers looking for healthier fast food alternatives.

Joey Wat, Yum China’s president, said the KFC store is aimed at “young, tech savvy consumers who are keen to embrace new tastes and innovations.”

[Featured Image by Bjoern Wylezich/Shutterstock]