Panera Bread increases Unlimited Sip Club price

The subscription drinks program that was $11.99 per month is now $14.99 per month, a 25% increase.
Panera Bread Sip Club
The Unlimited Sip Club was first launched in 2022 at $10.99 per month, plus tax. |Photo courtesy of Panera Bread.

Panera Bread’s unlimited beverage deal became somewhat less of a deal last week.

The fast-casual chain on Friday raised the price of its Unlimited Sip Club monthly subscription by $3 per month, or 25%, to $14.99 plus tax from the previous price of $11.99 plus tax.

The annual subscription rate remains $119.99 plus tax.

That makes the annual program an even better deal, at least for those who purchase a lot of drinks at Panera Bread. At the $14.99 monthly rate, members would be paying about $180 for a unlimited beverages over the course of a year.

Sip Club membership gives consumers access to more than 20 of the chain’s beverage options, including any size hot and iced coffees and teas, Charged Sips, lemonade and fountain drinks. Members can get a drink every two hours during regular café hours, as well as free refills of the same beverage at any U.S. unit.

Not included, however, are cold brew and espresso drinks, as well as “other beverages,” which the chain does not specify on its website.

Sip Club membership includes all the perks of Panera’s free rewards program, like free delivery for the first 30 days, members-only challenges and a birthday treat.

Panera officials did not respond to request for more information about the subscription price increase. It’s not clear whether beverage prices have also gone up.

The chain recently announced a menu overhaul rolling out in April that will add nine new dishes and upgrade another 12. The new menu, however, is also designed to streamline offerings and simplify operations, so a number of items will be cut from the menu, such as the flatbread pizzas and some specialty drinks, though company officials have not said which.

Panera's experiment with subscriptions began first with a coffee program in 2020 at an $8.99 monthly rate. At the end of the first year, the program had more than 600,000 paid subscribers.

The coffee program was so successful, the chain expanded it with more beverages, launching the Unlimited Sip Club in April 2022 at $10.99 a month (plus tax) for access to all 26 of the chain’s self-service beverages at the time.

The subscription program was expanded further with the annual subscription tier added last year. At the time, Panera officials said Sip Club members accounted for about 25% of transactions, and the subscription perks helped build the brand’s larger loyalty program to nearly 48 million members.

Perhaps inspired by Panera’s success with the program, other chains have also been adding paid subscriptions to loyalty offerings with the goal of boosting frequency.

Last year, Piada Italian Street Food, for example, launched a “stickscription” program for $6.99 per month, which included a free Piada Stick and regular fountain drink every day of that month with the purchase of an entrée. On their own, the sticks were about $2.99 and drinks were about $3.49.

Chuck E. Cheese is testing a three-tiered membership program with offerings that start at $7.99 per month for certain perks and goes up to $29.99 for bigger discounts on games and food.

The fast-casual Sweetgreen’s tiered loyalty program includes the Sweetpass+, offering both a $10 per month membership and an annual subscription for $100, which includes various perks and discounts.

Sweetgreen officials, however, said last month the loyalty program has not had the hoped-for impact on same-store sales, at least not yet.

CFO Mitch Reback at the Bank of America Consumer & Retail Conference last week put the blame on the fact that Sweetgreen's program is “relatively complicated and hard to explain.”

The Los Angeles-based chain plans to tinker with the Sweetpass program this year to make it simpler, easier and faster for guests to get rewards, he said.


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