Panera Adds 26 Drinks to Unlimited Coffee Subscription

Panera CEO hopes expanding the program’s beverage menu will lift lunch and dinner daypart sales.

April 20, 2022

Panera Bread QSR

ST. LOUIS—Panera is expanding its unlimited coffee subscription to include self-serve beverages and renaming the program “Unlimited Sip Club,” reports the Boston Globe. The subscription program allows members access to an unlimited amount of any self-serve beverage on its menu for $10.99 a month. Twenty-six beverages are included in the program.

Existing Panera coffee subscription members will continue to pay the $8.99 subscription fee and will have access to the beverages until 2023. Members can then pay $10.99 for the Unlimited Sip Club if they still want a beverage subscription, as the coffee program is now retired.

Panera customers who sign up for the program from now until May 6 will receive a free subscription through July 4.

“We disrupted the coffee industry and made premium coffee accessible to everyone,” Niren Chaudhary, Panera’s CEO, said in an interview with The Boston Globe. “This is the future.”

Panera’s unlimited coffee subscription program was launched in February 2020, and it has about 350,000 paying subscribers. Chaudhary says that program members buy coffee eight times as frequently as other customers, and 30% of the time, they add food to accompany their drinks. Compared to customers who don’t participate in the MyPanera loyalty program, which has 45 million members, coffee subscribers spent up to 11 times as much money in 2021.

“When the beverage is no longer a barrier, customers are attracted to our best-in-class food,” Chaudhary told the Boston Globe.

Chaudhary hopes that including unlimited beverages in the program will boost the fast-casual chain’s lunch and dinner sales, which account for 80% of total sales.

“If we provide the same benefit of accessibility, of disruptive value at a flat price point, allowing customers to drink whatever they want, whenever they want, as much as they’d like,” Chaudhary told the Boston Globe, “it’ll multiply the impact for Panera. This is a much bigger playground.”

Panera’s coffee launch happened just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, which pushed many customers to digital ordering. Panera said that 38% of its orders came from kiosks, web or mobile orders pre-pandemic, and now it’s 47%.

(Here’s why fast casuals flourished during the pandemic.)

Forty-eight percent of restaurant patrons surveyed say they engage with a loyalty program in some way, according to a report by Paytronix Systems Inc. and PYMNTS. Another Paytronix report found that deals, discounts and loyalty programs attract high-spending, high-frequency customers more than other spending groups, and these buyers account for one-quarter of restaurant patrons and an outsized share of food aggregator users.

NACS Magazine dove into loyalty programs and how they can provide convenience retailers with critical consumer insights and a competitive edge in “Just Rewards.”

NACS is offering a free webinar that will show you how to improve your current loyalty program.