New subscription frontier: Restaurants

"Other businesses have had better luck. St. Louis-based Panera had nearly 40 million members in its loyalty program in early 2020, but it wanted to convince them to drop in more often. So it launched a subscription program that offered unlimited coffee and tea for $8.99 per month. Customers started coming in several times a week, and about one-third of the time they bought food.

Last year, Panera expanded the subscription. Now, members can pay $11.99 per month or $119.99 per year for unlimited hot and cold drinks. Annual subscribers also get free delivery.

Eduardo Luz, Panera’s chief brand and concept officer, won’t share exact numbers but he said members now make up 25% of the chain’s transactions.

“It’s a huge traffic driver,” Luz said…"


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Notwithstanding my aversion to “subscriptions”, I am a member of the Coffee and Tea “club”. I did the math and I breakeven after the second week on my coffee purchases (I drink a lot of coffee!). After that, I’m saving money versus buying coffee by the cup at Panera or elsewhere.

I’m probably a loss leader because I get my coffee nearly every morning and never buy food when I do. Don’t tell on me! :slightly_smiling_face:


Oh man, this is triggering the old man “get off my lawn” mindset. I already feel like eating out has become more of a luxury than I’d like it to be and if subscriptions take over I may never go out again. Or maybe I’ll just choose one restaurant and only eat there. :joy: As for coffee, I drink enough of it that I wouldn’t mind a subscription service but it’d need to be for something with more locations than Panera. I’d need it to be for Dunkin’, or Starbucks, or Wawa, etc… We only have two Panera locations in our city and they’re roughly 20-30 minutes away from me.

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I’m worried some chain is going to offer me a spicy chicken sandwich subscription. I’ll have to be physically restrained.


I’m fortunate in that a Panera is five minutes from my house—directly on the way to work. I’m usually in the pickup lane at 6am waiting for them to open. :slightly_smiling_face:

Oh can I relate! I might have to drop an app subscription to pay for that one! :joy:


That’s the thing with the coffee “subscription”…it’s not required to get a coffee, but there’s a significant value to the people that do this every day. And it probably encourages them to not try other places, because the regular Panera is paid for.

Think about it. How many people pick a breakfast/lunch/dinner place because they have a goofy coupon for something free, no matter how trivial? That’s exactly what this is. And if they’re meeting somebody else (or a group of somebody elses) and they suggest Panera, that’s one or more additional customer(s) at full price.

Coffee/tea are cheap compared to the potential additional revenue from people walking through the door. The only way they lose is if most customers never buy anything else.

That’s me and I don’t buy anything with my coffee. For me, this is a tremendous savings even compared to McDonald’s coffee, not to mention something like Starbucks, which I find to be over roasted anyway (especially since I don’t add all of the sweet stuff-I drink it black).

I better not let my wife know. She’s less than a mile from a Panera and we are already fans of the chain.


So, you are buying every morning a coffee for a minimum of 2,59$, plus Tax?
I do not see, how you make the break even after 2 weeks on that, with their yearly plan, as it would require you to spent 12$ a day at their counter. So it would rather take you around 45 Days, to have the break even on that. And of course earlier, if you regularly buy the larger variations.

Anyway, even if you make a break even on that, if you are on your trip to the office, why buying regular coffee at a coffee shop at those ridiculous prices, if you could get it for a fraction of that in your office?

No need to shame people’s purchasing decisions.


Easy, $2.59 at McDonald’s for large coffee x 4 days = $10.36. My subscription at Panera is ~9.99/month.


PS you obviously haven’t tasted our office coffee! :joy:


Didn’t someone once say “Let them drink office coffee”? :grinning:


I thought you were on the cheaper yearly subscription. So I have to revise my 45 Days into 48…

They are producing your cup of coffee at costs of around 10-15 Cent…

BTW, the more or less same costs for the other products within the subscription.
So they are fine, unless you drink more than 80-100 cups a month there. And their restrictions are most likely prohibiting every member of their subscription club from doing so by their terms and conditions.

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I am not “shaming” anyone for anything!
I just wanted to show, that this “subscription” is a win for the company, not the customer.
And that it would be much cheaper to drink the regular coffee at the office, if you are on the way to there anyway.
The OP has several threads within MPU where he expresses that he want to save money, what I fully understand, and life myself, and therefore I wanted to mention the above said things, not more, not less!

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I used to work for Maxwell House coffee so I’m aware of the high margins. My only point in all of this is that the subscription for coffee is a good deal for me. :blush:

It’s a win for everybody if the customer would have otherwise paid $2.50 for the coffee.

It somewhat puzzles me the number of people who buy drive-through coffee every day (some multiple times per day!), but the fact remains - they do.

At 52 weeks/year, 5 days a week (work days, not weekends), that’s 260 cups of coffee for some people. $120 per year turns $2.50 per cup into $0.46 per cup, which isn’t horrible when you consider that somebody else makes it for you.

Panera is obviously banking on the fact that their marketing signage is going to be able to entice @Bmosbacker into a delightful pastry or some other heavily-marked-up food enough of the time. It’ll be an interesting contest of wills. :smiley:


I wish someone would draw the line somewhere sometime soon. I mean, how boring! Btw, I don’t drink coffee so that wouldn’t appeal to me unless they offered Diet Pepsi (lot less of a jolt). Never mind me. Just felt compelled to chime in.


In particular because software subscriptions are often compared to the price of a coffee…

But indeed; everyone is free to have her/his own priorities/preferences/choices.