With consumers bracing to reduce their spending at restaurants over the holiday season, Panera Bread is looking to drive continued sales and visits by making its beverage subscription giftable.
The fast-casual chain, which has more than 2,100 locations across the U.S. and Canada, announced Tuesday (Dec. 5) that it is making its Unlimited Sip Club beverage subscriptions giftable, enabling consumers to purchase plans for one, six or 12 months to give to others. Specifically, givers can send gift cards that recipients can then use for the subscription.
“We are thrilled to be able to be an option for gift-givers this year — no matter what holidays and people in your life you are celebrating, the gift of Unlimited Sip Club is the perfect feel-good gesture for that special someone on your list,” Panera Chief Digital Officer Meenakshi Nagarajan said in a statement.
The move comes as restaurants look for ways to drive holiday season spending to offset consumer belt-tightening. According to the PYMNTS Intelligence study “The Credit Economy: How Consumers Are Approaching Holiday Spending and Travel,” created in collaboration with i2c and drawing from a survey of more than 3,300 U.S. consumers, 79% say they plan to cut back on buying food from restaurants this season due to concerns about holiday spending.
Overall, the study found, consumers plan to spend 26% less on average on non-gift items this holiday season.
Against this backdrop, gift cards can be a key way for restaurants to capture consumers’ seasonal spending as they reallocate their budgets toward gifting. Many restaurants offered gift card deals over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and some brands’ deals continue through to Christmas. These are among the most popular gifts. The same Credit Economy report revealed 37% of holiday shoppers will purchase gift cards this year.
Panera is not the only company to tap giftable food-centric subscriptions to drive holiday spending. During this season last year, for instance, DoorDash announced the ability to gift DashPass subscriptions.
Additionally, many brands are offering holiday-specific menu items in an effort to capture consumers’ enthusiasm for the season. McDonald’s, for instance, has its Holiday Pie. Krispy Kreme is offering donuts themed around the popular Christmas film “Elf.” Starbucks has its popular holiday menu.
Plus, some brands are turning to their catering businesses to drive holiday season sales even as consumers’ spend more time at home. For instance, fast-casual brand Dickey’s Barbecue Pit touted its holiday catering offerings in a news release Tuesday (Dec. 5), offering a themed holiday box that serves 12 for $125. Similarly, Cracker Barrel announced last month its holiday meal options for up to 10 people.
Still, consumers are feeling the financial burn and doing everything they can to cut back. According to “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report – The Saving Deep Dive Edition,” a PYMNTS Intelligence and LendingClub collaboration, finds that, on average, U.S. consumers have seen their savings decreased by 2.1% over last year and by 7.1% since 2021. With their budgets thus strained, it may be hard for many consumers to justify the added costs of restaurant dining.