The year is 2020, and every new business model is described as “the Netflix (or Uber) of ______.” Though the comparison is reductive and typically inaccurate, Panera Bread is the most recent restaurant to use it. The fast-food sandwich spot that was recently outed as a normal restaurant just unveiled a new subscription coffee service. Those who join have access to unlimited drip coffee, iced coffee, and iced tea for just $8.99 per month. That comes out to about 30 cents per day, which ain’t too shabby.
The coffee subscription service is an attempt to lure customers in pre-lunchtime, as about 75% of Panera’s business happens after 11 a.m. The bread emporium overhauled its breakfast menu last year and started serving things like bacon and egg wraps. The idea being, if you’re in there for coffee every day, you’re more likely to order a breakfast sandwich from time to time. Burger King made the same move last year, with its $5 per month subscription coffee service BK Café. Like Burger King, it appears that Panera is trying to get an edge on fast-food breakfast purveyors, including McDonald’s and Dunkin’.
The subscription coffee program is perfect for the utilitarian coffee drinker: it’s coffee for the masses. Sure, coffee snobs probably don’t want to stop into the bread bowl place for their morning java. But if a Panera were next to my office (house) or on my route to work (the stairs from my bedroom to the dining room), I’d totally do this. Hell, $9 is about the same as I pay for the pre-ground coffee I make in my Mr. Coffee maker, and I go through two of those cans a month. Did I just talk myself into becoming a subscription Panera coffee drinker? Looks like I’ve got a whole new identity to adopt.