Square Offers Subscription Tools as Restaurants Tap Membership Models


As restaurants explore the potential of subscription commerce, Square is offering recurring payments tools.

The financial services platform announced a wide range of new features Wednesday (April 12) including a handful of additional restaurant capabilities and a new Square Subscriptions feature, in beta, that allows “all kinds of businesses” to set up periodic billing models.

“For the first time, we’re announcing new features across products all at once, because our strength lies in the integrated ecosystem of software, hardware, and embedded financial services,” Square CEO Alyssa Henry said in a statement. “No matter the combination of products a seller uses, the new features we’re announcing today can all drive meaningful gains for SMBs as they navigate the year ahead.”

The subscription feature, enabling businesses to provide items or services at regular intervals, includes a range of billing models and plan duration options as well as the option to offer a free trial.

The news comes as restaurants increasingly try out different subscription models, offering anything from free items to discounts to delivery for a set monthly rate. Last month, for instance, multinational quick-service restaurant (QSR) giant Subway announced the return of its Footlong Pass, through which customers receive 50% off their footlong sub purchase up to once a day for 30 days for a flat $15 fee.

Fast-casual chain Panera Bread, for its part, has its Unlimited Sip Club, offering free beverages for a set monthly rate. In February, the bakery-café brand added an annual membership option that also includes free delivery. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Eduardo Luz, the restaurant’s chief brand and concept officer, noted that the subscription model can keep customer frequency up at a time when, amid inflation, many diners are reining in their spending.

“We expected our most loyal and frequent MyPanera members to join the program, but what’s really been interesting is the number of guests joining Unlimited Sip Club that are new to Panera,” said Luz. “Since the launch of Unlimited Sip Club, more than half of its members are new to our MyPanera loyalty program in general.”

Meanwhile, other brands are taking a different approach, focusing not on what items or discounts they can offer but what services they can provide. In a conversation with PYMNTS in the fall, shortly after P.F. Chang’s launched a rewards program subscription with free delivery and other perks for $6.99 a month, the brand’s Chief Operating Officer Art Kilmer argued that there’s a shift occurring in the restaurant subscription space.

“An overall trend we are seeing in loyalty programs is that consumers are not limited to just item-based rewards … as the benefit of subscription models,” Kilmer said. “Rather, consumers are seeing more service-based program benefits as well that allow for engagement and interaction with the brand.”

Overall, subscriptions can go a long way toward driving restaurant loyalty.

Research from PYMNTS’ study “Digital Divide: Restaurant Subscribers And Loyalty Programs,” which drew from a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, found that 79% of restaurant subscribers and 70% of those interested in subscriptions reported being very or extremely loyal toward their preferred restaurants. In contrast, only 47% of those who are uninterested in subscriptions said the same.