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The Future of Restaurant Loyalty: Meal Subscriptions

There is no denying that the subscription model is quickly becoming a major trend in the restaurant industry. Since 2020, major chains such as Panera Bread, Olive Garden, HuHot Mongolian Grill, and BJs Restaurants have launched monthly subscription programs for coffee, entrées, and even beer. These programs have not only increased repeat visits by up to 200%, but also have influenced a significant increase in customer loyalty and spending during extra visits. Additionally, the National Restaurant Association recently found that over 51% of restaurant customers would subscribe to a restaurant if they had the opportunity to do so. Read on for more information about how Restaurant Subscriptions work, what they offer you and your customers, and how ChewCrew can help any Clover merchant launch and manage subscription programs with ease.

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What are Restaurant Subscriptions?

Put simply, subscriptions allow restaurant patrons to pay restaurants a fixed monthly fee in exchange for a set number of meals, drinks, or other items. This model is separate and distinct from subscription meal kits for pickup or delivery, and instead allows restaurant merchants to enhance their patrons' in-person dining experience. After a customer subscribes to a customized meal plan (bronze, silver, or gold, for example), they will have the option to spend their monthly pre-paid credits on the items specified in their plan anytime they visit the restaurant. As loyal subscribers, restaurant patrons feel like they are receiving an enhanced VIP dining experience by receiving credits that reload on a monthly basis, ultimately driving them to visit restaurants they are subscribed to more frequently, bring their friends and family, and buy more items at full-price since they receive a discount on the items in their subscription plan. In addition to increasing customer retention and loyalty spending, subscriptions also generate an additional stream of predictable and recurring revenue for merchants that they receive before incurring the cost of food and labor on a monthly basis, helping with cash flow.

Case Study: Braxton's Kitchen (Camarillo, CA)

Last year, a brunch joint out of Camarillo, CA, partnered with ChewCrew to launch a subscription meal membership that allows customers to subscribe to a Bronze Plan, Silver Plan, or Gold plan for 1, 2, or 4 entrée credits per month, respectively. In less than a year, they grew to over 70 subscribing customers that pay them anywhere from $11 to $38 per month for their in-person meal subscriptions. While the recurring revenue from the subscription cost alone has been valuable for the owners of Braxton's Kitchen, they are even more excited by the increased customer loyalty and spending behaviors that have resulted from their program. Since launching 16 months ago, their subscription program has generated $22k from membership fees alone plus an additional $45k of revenue from additional spending by subscribers. On average, their subscribing customers are spending $35 extra per month as subscribers than they did prior to starting their subscription. These increases have allowed the owners at Braxton's Kitchen to hedge against the hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and posture their business to launch a second location in the coming months.

Logistics: How to Launch and Manage a Subscription Program with Ease using ChewCrew

There are a few things to consider when launching a subscription program to ensure customers receive the best experience and continue subscribing month after month. At ChewCrew, we offer a package of services that makes launching and managing a subscription program hassle free while also integrating with your Clover devices.

Customize Your Membership Tiers. Customers are more likely to subscribe to a meal plan when restaurants provide multiple plan tiers to suit different customer preferences. We have an onboarding form to help walk merchants through setting up their varying membership tiers. This process allows them to select the price of each membership tier, how many monthly credits each tier receives, and what a credit is redeemed for (e.g. an entrée, drink, dessert, or other item on the menu).

Analytics. As previously mentioned, customers subscribed to a restaurant will often purchase additional menu items at full price in addition to the items covered in their subscription. To keep track of this additional spending while also analyzing adjustment in customer spending behavior before and after subscribing, ChewCrew's Clover integration enables valuable analysis of their restaurant partners' subscription programs. ChewCrew delivers in-depth monthly analytics reports, which offer merchants full transparency into how much revenue their subscription program has generated, how many active subscribers they have, how much additional money subscribers are spending after joining their program, and more.

Customer Sign Up Process. Restaurant merchants also need an easy way for customers to learn more about their subscription program and subscribe to a monthly plan with ease.  For no additional cost, ChewCrew will set up a subscription landing page for customer sign-ups and provide QR codes that link directly to the page for plan selection and payment.

Item Credit Redemption and Tracking. After a customer subscribes, both the merchant and the customer will need a way to keep track of how many credits they have, when their credits are redeemed for the items specified in their plan, and when their credits will reload on a monthly basis. The ChewCrew app on the Clover App Marketplace will allow restaurant partners to easily redeem customer item credits by simply entering the subscriber's 4-digit membership ID at checkout. In addition, the Clover app allows merchants to view the membership status, credits available, and credit reload dates for each of their subscribers. Subscribers also have access to a customer-facing web portal that allows them to view relevant information about their membership.

Recurring Billing Management. After customers submit their initial payment, it is critical to keep track of subscribers' monthly payments to ensure that they are billed on the same day every month and to manage issues with expired cards or failed transactions. By integrating with Stripe, a payment processing partner that securely manages subscription billing for millions of businesses worldwide, ChewCrew ensures merchant customers' payment information is handled safely and billed correctly according to the plan to which they are subscribed.

Customer plan changes, cancelations, and general support. Lastly, to ensure a premium experience for subscribing patrons, there will need to be an option for subscribers to change to a different membership tier, ask questions about their subscriptions, or cancel if they choose to do so. ChewCrew manages all of this for their merchant partners so they can continue directing their energy where their business needs it most.

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ChewCrew allows restaurants, cafes, smoothie shops, and other merchants to launch and manage subscription meal/drink offerings with ease. We are currently offering three-month free trials to Clover merchants exclusively and can help merchants get their subscription program launched in less than a week with minimal staff training required. As a cherry on top, we also partner with local homeless shelters and donate a warm, fresh meal monthly for each subscribing customer.