Steal These Subscription Ideas

Given the potentially meaningful return on investment you can see with subscription programs, it makes sense to want to jump in with gusto. But what exactly does that entail? 

As we’ve covered in a previous blog post, there are several different models when it comes to subscription-based services, but those are only starting points. Like loyalty programs, subscriptions are completely customizable based on your restaurant or c-stores and its customers. 

Whether launching a subscription program for the first time or freshening up an existing one, here are some ideas that can set you apart from the competition:

  • Member Perks: Occasional, unadvertised specials that apply only to subscribers can make customers feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. For example: Minneapolis restaurant owner Matty O’Reilly offers a dining membership at several of his eateries, and has offered 2-for-1 drinks at every visit during certain months. He also makes sure to do “members only” rewards on a regular basis.
  • Limited Memberships and Waiting Lists: Since the dawn of restaurants and retail, the allure of limited availability has driven more purchases, and subscriptions are no different. Limiting memberships for easy loss leaders like free coffee doesn’t make sense, but it does for higher-ticket items like entrees and meals. With those, advertising that there are “only a few more memberships available” could entice those who remain undecided by making the program feel exclusive.
  • Referral Bonuses: Rewarding subscribers for telling their friends to sign up is another time-tested approach that works very well for subscriptions. Panera Bread found great success this summer when the brand offered three months of their coffee subscription for free to guests who got two friends to subscribe.
  • Free Intro Period: Creating a limited subscription sign-up time can bring aboard members who are hesitant about commitment to a monthly program. For example, the Panera coffee program offers an initial free period for about two months, with credit cards automatically charged after a certain date. GrubHub also launched a subscription service in February,  offering a free 14-day trial of the service. The delivery aggregator even put a fun spin on sign-ups by extending the trial to 30 days if customers could show they were switching over from a competitor’s program.
  • Free Shipping: Expanding a subscriber base beyond local customers means you can open exponential new possibilites while still controlling inventory. Katz Deli’s monthly box of New York favorites is a prime example: it allows subscribers to change what’s in their box based on what the deli has available. At a local level, this could take the form of faster delivery. For example, UberEats offers to deliver food 15 minutes faster for a higher fee—although that’s not part of a subscription now, it could easily be bundled into one. Similarly, GrubHub’s subscribers get free delivery in addition to other perks like 10 percent cash back on dollars spent at certain restaurants.
  • Adding on to Loyalty Programs: Appealing to customers who are already in your loyalty program can not only increase the chances they’ll stay in the program, but also potentially boost their purchasing power. For example, c-store RaceTrac began offering a new monthly fuel subscription program in June, giving loyalty program members savings of 10 cents per gallon on the first 40 gallons and three cents per gallon afterward. 

Playing around with different ideas like these can help to refine what your subscription offers to customers, and as long as you’re tracking the results, you can get insight into what works best over time.

Want to learn more about subscriptions? Download our ebook, Subscriptions: The Next Level of Loyalty, for insights on why subscriptions drive loyalty and enhance differentiation, and how you can get started by launching your own program—with technology tools that make it easy.

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