In a successful PR move, Panera ran a #FREECOFFEE4SUMMER social media campaign to boost subscriptions to its $8.99 a month service. Anyone who subscribes to MyPanera+ by July 4 will get free, unlimited premium hot coffee, hot tea and iced coffee until Labor Day, September 7, 2020. With a MyPanera+ subscription, customers can get any size and any flavor of a qualifying beverage once every two hours at the bakery-café. Subscribers can also get their coffee to go through Panera rapid pick-up at curbside and via contactless delivery, where available.
The drip and iced coffee options are available in light and dark roast, which are made from 100% Arabica whole beans that are freshly ground every day. Both coffee blends, along with decaf and hazelnut, are part of the subscription offer. Cold brew, espresso, cappuccino and iced tea are excluded. Current subscribers also get to take advantage of this offer and will not be charged a subscription fee between June 22 and September 7.
“We asked America if they wanted it, and the answer was a resounding YES—so we're excited to kick off a summer of free, unlimited premium coffee for our guests through Labor Day,” said Eduardo Luz, Chief Brand & Concept Officer for Panera Bread. “This is our way of sharing the famous Panera Warmth in a new way, as we may be all celebrating summer a little differently this year.”
On June 16, Panera ran the #FREECOFFEE4SUMMER campaign on Twitter. If they received 500,000 votes for free coffee by June 22, they would honor their promise for Free Coffee for the Summer. They received 588,748 votes total, with 87.4% voting for free coffee.
Panera also received 3.3K comments and responded to many of them, even those that were unrelated to coffee. A lot of commenters had questions about the offer, and Panera was ready with answers.
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Panera launched the subscription program in March as an expansion of its rewards program. Some restrictions apply, of course. Customers must 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.
This was bold and potentially expensive for Panera, but we applaud their taking a risk. Their doing so achieves several things:
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have not been dining out, dramatically reducing revenue for restaurants of all sizes. This campaign reminds Americans that Panera is still open and available for carryout and delivery.
- This campaign created awareness and boosted interest in the company's MyPanera+ coffee subscription program. Due to the timing of the launch, subscription sign-ups may have been lower than initially expected.
- Panera is likely to get new subscribers to the program, who Panera hopes will stick around after the free summer of coffee has ended.
- It was fun – something desperately needed on social media and elsewhere. It put Twitter users in control of something, when everything seems out of control.
Bravo, Panera! We hope the campaign is a winner for you, and we hope other subscription companies will consider this strategy for future promotions.