Trend Alert—Restaurants Want a Slice of the Subscription Pie

Trend alert—restaurants want a slice of the subscription pie.

Spotify, Hulu… your fave takeout spot? Food could soon be on the “playlist” of businesses buying into subscription programs. And, if you think about it, hardly shocking in a subscription-happy culture hoarding 6.7 subscriptions per person in the U.S. in 2022—up from 4.2 in 2019—according to the Associated Press

Subscriptions are by no means new—newspapers, even milk delivery precede most of us by birth. But the collections “cons” once outweighed the “pros.” Now with the advent of PayPal, Stripe, etc., recurring payments simplify the sitch without all the headache. Add to that the pro of analytics (hey, Spotify Wrapped!), and packaging consumer behavior data in an appealing subscription service is, well, appealing. Translation? A buy-in business model that is transcending industries. And, now, restaurants want a slice of that metaphorical pie.

From the business standpoint, the appeal is clear. Revenue, insights and retention. But with a cultural subscription to subscriptions, clearly consumers are also buying in—literally. A recent report reveals Americans spend $200+ per month on subscription fees—because convenience, customization and cost.

So far, chains like PF Chang’s and Panera have bought in, with the former dishing free delivery, VIP concierge, prio resys and the like for $6.99 per month; and the latter expanding its successful coffee subscription to include all bevs in an Unlimited Sip Club ($11.99 per month) with free delivery for annual subscribers ($119.99 per year). And for Panera, just three years after pioneering the nascent coffee subscription, the membership plan already comprises 25%+ of the store’s transactions—and generates new business on the daily. But the model is not just for chains. In DC, a Michelin-starred spot offers a Supper Club subscription for $130 per month

Across the States, neighborhood spots are jumping on the subscription bandwagon. Locally, beyond produce and farmers subscriptions, Locals Seafood serves up weekly catches for pickup via its Locals Catch Seafood Subscription. And, of course, The Wine Feed uncorked subscription selects and pairing notes with its myriad wine clubs (Relax, Rosé, Revive, etc.)—to name a few. Only time will tell how and when—not if—local restaurants continue to adopt this business trend outside of customized pickup and delivery selects. Until then, alert me when Hulu can hand me a beer… 

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.