Just when coffee culture couldn’t get more obsessive, Panera is launching the ultimate bottomless cup with an $8.99/month subscription for unlimited coffee and tea.
The deal: Subscribers can get one cup of hot drip coffee, hot tea or iced coffee every two hours, unlimited. Light roast, dark roast, hazelnut, iced or decaf coffee, as well as tea, are available—ordered through the app, online or in-store. Sign up here now, or at in-store kiosks starting on March 2nd.
Fair warning. Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.
How can Panera afford this? Unlike most coffee chains, their current coffee business is small and able to accommodate a quick expansion. Panera locations are also suburban and mostly accessible only by car—therefore not at risk of the foot-traffic deluge that overwhelms urban coffee chains. The company hopes to expand its customer traffic, and particularly its breakfast business, which is a growth area throughout the industry.
Do other restaurants do subscriptions? Panera is the first nationwide restaurant to offer a coffee subscription. Subscription models have been slowly creeping into the food industry, first with Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Many delivery services, including DoorDash, PostMates and GrubHub (as of yesterday) have memberships for free deliveries and other perks for around $10/month. Local restaurant subscriptions do exist, such as a four-location chain in St. Paul that offers one menu item per day for $99/month.
Will this be popular? Hell yeah. Panera’s tests in four markets showed an over-90% retention rate.