Panera Leverages Payment Companies’ Audiences to Expand Subscriber Base 

Amex, Panera

Free coffee is a tried-and-true perk, and American Express is leveraging consumers’ desire for that morning boost to drive signups. On Wednesday (Nov. 3), the company announced its new MyPanera+ Coffee Subscription Benefit, through which anyone who signs up for a consumer or corporate card between Nov. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2022, can receive a free 6-month membership to Panera Bread’s coffee and tea subscription service.  

Panera’s program, which launched in early 2020, allows members to receive free hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee every two hours with unlimited refills. The chain has partnered with payment companies before to offer its subscription as a benefit — at the start of 2021, Apple announced that consumers could receive four months free for using Apple Pay. Panera’s willingness to launch another such partnership and to extend the free period indicates the first offer’s success for the brand.

Read more: Apple Pay Teams Up With Panera On Free Coffee Deal

By the Numbers 

Cardholder perks like these can go a long way. PYMNTS’ November 2020 report Cardholder Loyalty Engagement Report, created in collaboration with Novae, noted that 20% of debit card users, 21% of credit card users, a third of those who use both credit debit cards at the same bank and a quarter of those who use both at different banks, reported that they would be “very” or “extremely” likely to switch financial institutions for access to loyalty and rewards programs.  

See also: Cardholder Engagement Is A Matter Of Loyalty  

Additionally, for Panera, the partnership presents an opportunity to get a large portion of consumers to engage with the brand on a frequent — potentially daily — basis. PYMNTS research from the July/August edition of Delivering On Restaurant Rewards, created in collaboration with Paytronix, found that 78% of consumers who use restaurant loyalty programs consider the availability of free food when signing up.  

Related news: Two-Thirds Of Consumers Find Restaurant Rewards Impersonal   

What Insiders Are Saying  

For major restaurant chains, getting diners engaged with subscription programs that offer daily access to menu items can provide a sense of constancy that many consumers are looking for. In an interview with PYMNTS, Zipporah Allen, Taco Bell’s chief digital officer, discussed how the chain’s Taco Lover’s Pass subscription program was designed to boost foot traffic and drive customer engagement as the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector undergoes an accelerated digital transformation. 

“We’ve really focused on how our digital advancements can help better the customer and team member experience,” said Allen. “We know our fans are eager for convenience and reliability, two aspects we will continue to deliver on within our digital platforms.” 

You may also like: Report: Taco Bell Serves Up a Subscription Service to Keep Customers Loyal   

Granted, it remains to be seen whether this partnership will add any value for Panera Bread once consumers’ six free months are over, given that the subscription service does not offer the feature that tends to be the difference between programs that retain their members and those that see high churn rates: variety.

As David Asikin, the chief technology officer and co-founder of ICHIGO Inc., the company behind direct to consumer (D2C) snack box subscription service TokyoTreat, told PYMNTS in an interview, “In 2021 … consumers often use the diversity of SKUs on offer as the metric to determine if a service can keep their interest for a long time, and ultimately this can influence a service’s LTV and overall user experience.”

For more: For D2C Snack Boxes, SKU Count Is the Difference Between Flopping and Thriving