If you haven’t had your morning dose of caffeine yet, join the My Panera loyalty program on the web or your app, fork over $8.99, and head over to the local Panera Bread. You’re good for a month. Panera is offering a monthly subscription program for all the hot or iced coffee, or hot tea, that a customer with a roving eye for the likes of a Chipotle Chicken, Scrambled Egg & Avocado Breakfast Wrap can drink.
Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary tells USA Today’s Kelly Tyko that the idea is to disrupt the industry with a program unlike any other.
“‘There are no ifs and buts, this is truly unlimited access to coffee for a monthly subscription of $8.99,’ Chaudhary said, noting all cup sizes are included and time of day doesn't matter,” Tyko writes, adding that “starting Monday, you can also sign up at Panera's nearly 2,200 locations using a QR code.”
“Chaudhary believes the rewards program -- which currently has 38 million members -- will gain another ‘few million’ members this year because customers must first join MyPanera in order to sign up for the coffee subscription. He wants to grow total membership to 50 million in the mid-term, he said,” reports Reuters’ Hilary Russ, who spoke with Chaudhary in a phone interview.
“Panera has been testing the coffee subscription for over three months at 150 cafes throughout the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Raleigh and Nashville. In tests, the frequency of visits increased by more than 200%. Almost 70& of orders also included food items, and the subscription renewal rate was 90% to 95%. About 25% of coffee subscriptions in tests were for new rewards program members -- the majority of them also new to dining at Panera, meaning the program pulled in brand new customers,” Russ writes.
“In the last year, Panera revamped and expanded its drip and iced coffee offerings, introducing new coffee blends, freshly ground every day and made from 100% Arabica whole beans including the new Light Roast and Dark Roast. Both coffee blends are available, along with Decaf and Hazelnut, as part of the new coffee subscription program,” Sophia Waterfield writes for Newsweek.
“The low monthly cost of coffee subscription programs gives restaurants an easy way to lure in customers and convince them to change their breakfast habits. Restaurant Brands International’s Burger King began a coffee subscription program a year ago after it revamped its own coffee selection. Customers pay $5 a month for unlimited coffee as the burger chain tries to gain an edge over breakfast rivals like McDonald’s,” reports Amelia Lucas for CNBC.
“The lack of limits and size restraints sets Panera’s program apart from Burger King’s coffee subscription,” Chaudhary tells USA Today’s Tyko. “The chain known for its Whoppers debuted its program in March 2019 and charged $5 a month for one small, hot coffee a day. It was discontinued months later,” Lucas reports.
SheKnows blogger Justina Huddleston has done the math and thinks it’s a great deal. Citing data from the “Acorns 2017 Money Matters Report,” the average American spends about $1,100, or $92 a month, on coffee, she reports. Panera’s $8.99/month adds up to “only $107.88 a year, about a tenth of what the average coffee drinker spends. Where do we sign up?” she continues.
Oh, and by the way, Panera Bread last week announced that it’s dropping the vegan milk surcharge on its coffee drinks “following ongoing talks with PETA. Compassionate customers at more than 2,000 Panera Bread locations in the U.S. and Canada can now enjoy their almond milk lattes at no additional cost, according to a PETA blog post.
An investor group led by JAB Holding Company acquired Panera in July, 2017.
“Coffee is an important daily ritual for so many -- it can give you a dose of optimism, it lifts you up. We kept asking ourselves, why can’t it be more accessible, more affordable? Moreover, could unlimited coffee translate to unlimited optimism?” Chaudhary, who joined the company in 2019 from Krispy Kreme, says in a press release.