More restaurants are embracing the subscription model

by Ana Lopez

Restaurants are turning to subscription models to ensure stable revenue and customer visits. The move is also industry-wide, with major chains like Panera and PF Chang’s and local eateries experimenting with different subscription benefits and perks.

Like the Associated Press reports, subscriptions work as you’d expect, and customers can enjoy unlimited drinks, free delivery, or their favorite foods in exchange for a monthly fee. According to personal finance app Rocket Money, the average American juggled 6.7 subscriptions in 2022, up from 4.2 in 2019 — an indication that consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to subscriptions, which also help restaurants manage cash flow.

Panera’s subscription program, which offers unlimited coffee and tea for $11.99 per month, was expanded to include unlimited hot and cold beverages and free delivery. According to Eduardo Luz, Panera’s Chief Brand and Concept Officer, members account for 25% of the chain’s transactions.

The idea spread abroad. Pret A Manger launched its coffee subscription in the UK in 2020, which is used 1.2 million times a week, with subscriptions also offered in France and the United States.

The Institute of Culinary Education’s Executive Director of Industry Relations, Rick Camac, told the AP he believes restaurant subscriptions will only grow. Camac reportedly said consumers are used to it and the extra revenue helps restaurants manage budgets.

However, not all subscription programs have been successful. The AP notes the example of a Detroit restaurant, SheWolf, that eliminated an $80-a-month subscription option to receive pasta, sauces, and Italian treats. The pandemic — the very thing that has inspired other eateries to seek this extra income — has killed SheWolf’s box.

Assembling the boxes turned out to be too much work when the restaurant was able to offer public dining again.

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