Restaurant Subscription Models You Haven't Considered Yet
It's no secret that the restaurant industry has faced constant, new challenges over the past number of years.
From health-related closures and sky-high inflation to staffing shortages and the looming pressure of AI, restaurateurs have had to get creative with diversification.
And they’ve quickly realized that subscriptions are the way to do it.
Models that prioritize recurring revenue streams – like subscriptions – have proven to be stable and reliable options for diversification.
Subscriptions offer a unique opportunity to better serve guests and customers while creating a revenue stream that can support your business during precarious times…
Much like the precarious times we’ve had over the past few years.
The Great Restaurant Subscription Shift
The restaurant industry started exploring subscription models more seriously in 2020.
Motivated primarily by the pandemic-induced need to diversify revenue streams, businesses started turning to subscriptions, reaching an all-time high in Q2 2020. In April 2020, Recurly Research reported the highest growth for businesses trialing subscriptions, peaking at 85% growth and maintaining 60% growth week-over-week.
Fast forward to 2024, and diversifying with subscription models hasn’t gone anywhere but up. Square’s “The Future of Restaurants: 2024 Edition” reports that 90% of restaurant owners plan to start new revenue streams over the next year.
Square also predicts that choices for diversification will be heavily guided by consumer preferences and demographics… especially Gen Zers, the soon-to-be largest consumer demographic. So, considering 27% of Gen Zers reported that meal kits and subscriptions would attract them to a restaurant… it looks like subscription-forward diversification is here to stay.
Looking Beyond Restaurant Subscriptions
After reading about the industry’s shift to subscriptions, the benefit of a restaurant subscription model seems obvious… but there’s a caveat.
Choosing a one-size-fits-all subscription model rarely works.
There are hundreds of restaurant subscription options on the market, but they won’t all be a perfect fit for your restaurant’s goals, values, and needs.
And, if your needs are hyper-specific, cutting-edge, or “never been done” by a restaurant before… then none of them will fit.
But don’t worry — there’s an easy solution.
If no restaurant subscription model fits exactly what you’re looking for, try looking outside of the restaurant industry, instead.
There are tons of non-restaurant subscription models that not only offer proven results and successes but can also easily be adapted to the restaurant industry with customizable subscription tech (like Craver’s new subscription offer — coming very soon!).
Here are some of our top picks for non-restaurant subscription models to draw inspiration from during your restaurant’s subscription development process.
Non-Restaurant Subscription Models to Inspire You
1. The All-Inclusive Subscription Model
Popular Example: Amazon Prime
How it Works:
Everyone you know — including yourself — has probably used Amazon Prime at least once. Considered “the largest and most lucrative subscription on Earth,”
Amazon Prime offers borderline-unbelievable perks like 2-hour delivery, video streaming, reading, music, and more. 167 million people use Amazon Prime in the U.S. alone, helping Jeff Bezos finish Q3 2023 with $143.083B in revenue.
Despite Amazon Prime’s impressive stats, there’s one thing to note about its success: it’s not about pricing or experience. Because third-party sellers make up over half of Amazon’s marketplace, products aren’t always cheaper on the platform than they are in other places… plus you don’t typically talk to anyone from Amazon unless something’s wrong. Everything about this subscription is purely transactional — you buy and they deliver (in 2 hours).
Ultimately, Amazon Prime’s success boils down to two things: mind-blowing convenience and ridiculous speed.
Best For: Convenience and Speed
If your restaurant’s guests prioritize convenience and speed above all else, then an all-inclusive subscription model is a great choice. By charging a monthly (or yearly) subscription fee, you can grant consumers “all-inclusive” access to certain perks, like unlimited coffee and tea refills, order priority, or even free items.
But remember: you won’t see much face-to-face engagement with a transactional model that’s designed for people to “grab and go.”
2. The Superfan Subscription Model
Popular Example: Twitch
How it Works:
If you’re interested in exploring live streaming, then Twitch is the place to be.
Twitch is a live video-streaming platform, most popular for its community of live gamers. But, outside of gaming, curious minds can also turn to Twitch for things like cooking lessons and Esports… and a lot of people do. Twitch has 140M+ monthly users, 30M+ daily users, and 7M+ active streamers.
By default, Twitch is free to use. But if viewers want to be more involved in their streaming communities, a subscription is their ticket in. Twitch subscribers gain access to a whole range of exclusive features, like subscriber-only chats, ad-free streams, and subscriber badges.
For Twitch subscribers, the power to engage is always in their hands. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” subscription — users choose which communities they want curated, exclusive access to, and which ones they’re okay without.
Best For: Curating an Engaged Community
If your restaurant’s guests prioritize curated experiences and engaged communities, then a pay-and-play model is a great choice. By offering choices for curated experiences — like an exclusive in-house tasting experience or a members-only coffee club — you’re empowering them to choose when they’d like to pay extra, and when they just want to be a regular guest.
But remember: curating a community isn’t a “fast” thing to do. People who want quick, fast solutions won’t resonate with this kind of subscription.
3. The Personalized Subscription Model
Popular Example: IPSY
How it Works:
When it comes to the beauty and skincare communities, IPSY is a top household name.
IPSY is a beauty subscription service that sends subscribers unique, personalized products in a monthly “Glam Bag”. When users sign up for IPSY, they’re prompted to take a “Beauty Quiz,” answering questions about personal preferences, physical attributes, and their favorite brands. Then, IPSY uses these answers to hand-select the subscriber's products, ensuring they only send products they know the subscriber will like.
Currently, IPSY has 3.5M+ Glam Bag subscribers, each paying 14 USD a month for a hand-selected, totally personalized beauty experience… but it doesn’t stop there. IPSY also has a dedicated community of beauty lovers, with 3.3M followers on Instagram, celebrity endorsements (like Gwen Stefani), and upgraded (read: more expensive) subscription options.
IPSY’s success is rooted in simplicity: personalization over everything.
Best For: Creating Memorable, Personalized Experiences
If your restaurant’s guests prioritize personalization and feeling seen and heard, then a personalized subscription model is a great choice. A quiz on guest food or drink preferences can result in curated monthly (or quarterly) subscriptions, whether that’s coffee, snacks, wine, or something else entirely. No matter what the subscription contains, it’ll show that you care enough to ask for — and listen to — your guest’s preferences.
But remember: hand-selected subscriptions mean higher involvement and likely a higher price tag. Personalization is not for those seeking cheap, low-involvement options.
Both inside and outside the restaurant industry, businesses are looking toward subscription options as a way to offer curated, engaging, personalized options to their guests.
Restaurateurs aren’t jumping on the subscription bandwagon because it’s popular.
They’re doing it because choosing the right restaurant subscription model works.
Sometimes you just need to look outside of the restaurant industry to get the inspiration rolling.