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More Restaurants Embrace Subscription Model to Drive Revenue and Retain Customers It's the latest trend in the food industry, and it's not slowing down.

By Steve Huff

Alexander Spatari | Getty Images

Restaurants are turning to subscription models to ensure steady revenue and customer visits. The move is industry-wide, too, with large chains like Panera and P.F. Chang's and local eateries experimenting with different subscription perks and benefits.

As the Associated Press reports, subscriptions work as you'd expect, and customers can enjoy unlimited drinks, free delivery, or their favorite dishes in exchange for a monthly fee. According to the personal finance app Rocket Money, the average American juggled 6.7 subscriptions in 2022, up from 4.2 in 2019 — an indication consumers are growing 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 drinks and free delivery. According to Eduardo Luz, Panera's chief brand and concept officer, members make up 25% of the chain's transactions.

The idea has spread overseas. Pret A Manger launched its coffee subscription in the U.K. in 2020, and those are used 1.2 million times per week, with subscriptions also offered in France and the United States.

Industry Relations Executive Director at the Institute of Culinary Education, Rick Camac, told the AP that he believes restaurant subscriptions will only grow. Camac reportedly said that consumers are used to them and the additional revenue aids restaurants in managing budgets.

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

Assembling the boxes proved too much work when the restaurant could offer public dining again.

Steve Huff

Entrepreneur Staff

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