Slowed by the pandemic, Panera revisits its coffee subscription service

The chain, which launched the unlimited coffee program at the start of the coronavirus crisis, is offering free coffee to new subscribers until Labor Day.
Photo courtesy of Panera Bread Co.

At the end of February, Panera Bread launched a monthly coffee subscription program. Less than two weeks later, the restaurant industry (and world) were turned upside down by the arrival of the coronavirus to the U.S.

On Monday, the fast-casual chain announced an attempt to revive its coffee subscription, offering free hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee until Labor Day for anyone who signs up for the My Panera Coffee subscription by July 4th.

As part of the promotion, diners can get any size and any flavor of coffee once every two hours, with unlimited refills.

“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,” Eduardo Luz, the chain’s chief brand and concept officer, said in a statement.

Coffee and tea can be ordered inside Panera units, through the chain’s website or via the app.

The unlimited coffee subscription is $8.99 per month. The chain is pausing renewal payments for current subscribers through Labor Day.

The revisiting of the coffee subscription program is another way in which restaurants are attempting to return to normal operations amid the pandemic.

When it was first rolled out, the coffee subscription program was billed as a model to boost guest frequency and check averages.

During limited tests, the subscriptions drove frequency by more than 200%, Panera executives said. Food attachment to coffee orders grew by 70%.

“Consumers are increasingly getting used to and liking the idea of subscriptions,” CEO Niren Chaudhary told Restaurant Business at the time. “You just pay for it once and you don’t have to think about it.”


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