Restaurant Roundup: Panera Expands Its Beverage Subscription; Outback Launches Catering


Panera Bread is growing its subscription offerings to include more than just consumers’ daily caffeine fix.

On Tuesday (April 19), the fast-casual bakery-café brand, which has more than 2,100 locations in the United States and Canada, announced that it is adding new beverages to and increasing the price of its subscription. The program, which began in February of 2020 offering unlimited coffee and tea for a fixed monthly rate, now includes a range of lemonades and PepsiCo soft drinks as well.

Related news: Panera Coffee Subscriptions And The Future Of Restaurants

“At Panera, we believe in making great food experiences accessible to all—we’re disrupting fast casual once again, providing unlimited access to high-quality beverages at tremendous value,” Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread, said in a statement. “Our guests have loved the subscription model and the convenience and value it brings to their daily lives … We’re excited to give our guests even more choice and more beverage options to fuel their day.”

There is significant demand for restaurant subscriptions. According to data from PYMNTS’ February/March study “Digital Divide: Restaurant Subscribers and Loyalty Programs,” created in collaboration with Paytronix, 17% of consumers who are not currently members of any restaurant subscription services are “very” or “extremely” interested subscribing in the future, and 42% are curious about them.

Read more: Four in 10 Consumers Open to Restaurant Subscription Services

Additionally, the study, which drew from a December survey of a census-balanced panel of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, found that about eight in 10 restaurant subscribers are “very” or “extremely” loyal to their favorite full-service restaurants (FSRs) and quick-service restaurants (QSRs). This share is well above the 59% of the overall population that said the same of FSRs and the 55% that said the same of QSRs.

Subscriptions can make a real difference in visit frequency/ In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in December, Paytronix CEO Andrew Robbins cited the example of a Mexican chain the company is working with offering a free chips and guac subscription, which drove visits up from 1.7 times a month to 2.7.

“It’s a small amount of money, but those people who sign up for that come in 30% more frequently than people who don’t,” he said. “It locks them in.”

See also: Restaurants Lean on Loyal Customers to Navigate Omicron, Inflation Impact

Quiznos Joins Restaurants Looking to Establish Their Brands in the Metaverse

REGO Restaurant Group, parent company of quick-service sandwich chain Quiznos and fast-casual Mexican-style chain Taco Del Mar, announced Wednesday (April 20) that it has entered into a multi-year deal with marketplace consultancy The NFT Agency to offer franchisees the ability to run locations in the metaverse.

“We are excited to be among the first movers in the restaurant industry to build franchises in the metaverse. Our team is continually cooking up ways to enhance how we engage with Quiznos sandwich and Taco Del Mar taco fans everywhere, including virtual environments,” Mark Lohmann, president of REGO Restaurant Group, said in a statement.

The NFTs will launch in late June.

Restaurant brands including McDonald’s and Panera Bread have filed trademark applications revealing metaverse intentions, and in March, QSR brand Wendy’s announced the opening of a virtual location in Meta’s Horizon Worlds virtual reality (VR) space.

You may also like: Eateries Open Metaverse Stores in Race to Be the ‘Restaurant of the Future’

Outback Steakhouse Launches U.S. Catering Business

Outback Steakhouse parent company Bloomin’ Brands announced Friday (April 22) that the steakhouse chain has launched a catering business at 481 of its United States locations.

The restaurant, which has 1,450+ locations worldwide, plans to extend the service to more U.S. locations in the future. The news comes as brands look to capture the return of on-site group events and of in-office work.

“We’re looking forward to sharing milestone moments with our guests at occasions like weddings, family gatherings, watch parties, and celebrations,” Brett Patterson, president of Outback Steakhouse, said in a statement. “We’re particularly excited to cater to employees as they return to the office because we know the power of sharing a great meal whether it be for recognition or a social gathering during a busy day.”

The option is available for online ordering. For much of the last couple of years, catering orders have been left out of the restaurant industry’s digital shift, but since fall 2021, more businesses have been bringing their catering businesses online.

Related: As Takeout and Delivery Soar, Catering Businesses Have Been Left Behind in the Digital Shift

Among other benefits, catering options allow restaurants to drive more revenue from their existing eCommerce platforms.

“With the grocery industry seeing a huge rush of positive public sentiment over the last year, many companies are wanting to capitalize on attention and develop or grow different revenue streams,” Rob Hill, general manager of order-ahead at Instacart, told PYMNTS in an October interview. “By offering catering options, bakery orders, prepared meals and holiday packages, grocers could realize serious income.”

For more: Instacart’s FoodStorm Taps Self-Service to Bring the Digital Shift Into Stores