Panera has expanded its rewards program, MyPanera, by adding a coffee subscription component. For $8.99 a month plus tax, rewards customers can become subscribers to the MyPanera+ coffee subscription. The new subscription program gives subscribers one cup, any size, of drip hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee every two hours during regular bakery hours, including unlimited free refills of the same beverage. Other beverages including cold brew, espresso, cappuccino and iced tea, are excluded from the offer.
Panera is selling the idea based on the cost savings. For the price of four 12-ounce cups of coffee, subscribers can get unlimited coffee beverages of any size or any flavor, including light roast, dark roast, hazelnut, decaf, iced coffee or hot tea. If a subscriber visits Panera every day for a month, that works out to be about $0.30 a day. If they visit weekly, they will probably just break even.
“Subscribe today, have some coffee, and do some great things,” Panera says on their subscription sign-up page.
There are limitations to the auto-renewable subscription, of course. Customers must first be MyPanera rewards customers, 18 years old or older, and have a debit or credit card on file for billing of the monthly subscription fee. Prospective subscribers can sign up online, in the subscription section of the Panera Bread app, or at a kiosk in participating U.S. Panera locations. Because the subscription is tied to an individual’s MyPanera rewards card, the subscription cannot be shared. At this time, gift subscriptions are not available, and the subscription cannot be used with third-party delivery services like Uber Eats or DoorDash.
Customers do not receive rewards credit for being subscribers, unless they make an additional purchase when redeeming their coffee or tea. For example, if a subscriber stops by Panera to get a coffee and a pastry, they will receive rewards credit for the pastry, but not the coffee if it is part of their subscription. They will continue to earn rewards on purchases as before.
In a USA Today article, Sara Burnett, Panera vice president of wellness and food policy said, “This is a new way to add value for loyalty members and really help subscriber long term loyalty.”
USA Today said Panera has tested the subscription program in 150 locations in four markets over three months, and they saw a 200% increase in how often people visit and 70% increase in food purchases. Retention was typically between 90% and 95%.
In March 2019, Burger King launched the BK Café subscription program for $5 a month. Subscribers would receive a small cup of premium BK Café coffee daily throughout the month, which equates to about $0.17 per day. A note on Reddit said the subscription service was no longer available, and a Burger King representative confirmed that for us yesterday.
This unlimited coffee subscription is not about the coffee. Afterall, how many people really just drink plain coffee or tea anymore? As Burnett explained, MyPanera+ is about customer loyalty. They attract customers with a deal, hoping they will make a food purchase while they are there. For telecommuters who like to get out of their home offices, or people who host appointments or take meetings at their local Panera, this is a good deal. They will get their money’s worth, and Panera will further solidify their relationship with those customers. If only they would throw in high speed WiFi as part of the deal