Panera Bread has brewed up a hot proposition that’s sure to get caffeine addicts buzzing: A bottomless cup of joe.
For $8.99 a month with Panera’s new coffee subscription program, get unlimited hot or iced coffee for less than the average price of five cups at the St. Louis-based fast-casual chain. One cup daily in a 30-day month averages around 30 cents a cup.
Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary told USA TODAY the idea is to disrupt the industry with a program unlike any others.
“There are no ifs and buts, this is truly unlimited access to coffee for a monthly subscription of $8.99,” Chaudhary said, noting all cup sizes are included and time of day doesn’t matter.
Registration for the coffee subscription officially launches nationwide Thursday on the Panera app and website. Starting Monday, you can also sign up at Panera’s nearly 2,200 locations using a QR code.
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But the first step to getting cup after cup of coffee or hot tea is to be a member of the chain’s free loyalty program, MyPanera, which has 38 million members.
“This is a new way to add value for loyalty members and really help subscribe long term loyalty,” said Sara Burnett, Panera vice president of wellness and food policy.
Panera tested its program at 150 locations in four markets — Nashville; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio – over three months.
Chaudhary said they saw a 200% increase in frequency of visits and a 70% increase of consumers buying food with the coffee. In the test, Panera saw a 90 to 95% renewal rate.
The lack of limits and size restraints sets Panera’s program apart from Burger King’s coffee subscription, Chaudhary said. The chain known for its Whoppers debuted its program in March 2019 and charged $5 a month for one small, hot coffee a day. It was discontinued months later.
“We are challenging the status quo because we believe everyone deserves a full cup, literally and figuratively,” Chaudhary said.
How MyPanera+ Coffee works
Sign up for the program at www.panerabread.com/mypaneracoffee or on the Panera app. Starting March 2, you can also sign up at Panera’s nearly 2,200 locations using a QR code.
With the subscription, which costs $8.99 plus tax, get one cup of drip hot coffee, hot tea, or iced coffee every two hours during regular bakery-cafe hours, including free refills of the same beverage at participating U.S. Panera bakery-cafes. Cold brew iced coffee and espresso and cappuccino beverages are excluded.
Redeem your subscription once up to every two hours with unlimited refills while you’re in the cafe.
You can place orders at the register or kiosks when you’re in the cafe, online or through our app. With the app, you can also order ahead for “Rapid Pick-Up.” Orders can be placed up to two weeks in advance.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko