Pret A Manger is tempting US coffee lovers with its subscription service, capitalizing on a booming trend among retailers

By Zahra Tayeb

Cafe chain Pret A Manger has launched its coffee subscription service in New York and Washington D.C., the company recently announced. 

Its US debut comes after a successful rollout in the UK market. In 2020, Pret garnered 16,500 subscriptions on its first day in the UK. 

"After seeing success in the UK market, Pret A Manger is eager to offer its US customers a program with similar benefits, starting with a free first month for all new subscribers," the company said in a statement. 

The coffee market has shown resilience during the pandemic, according to Peter Giuliano, chief research officer of the Speciality Coffee Association. "Lots of people were predicting reduced coffee consumption caused by the pandemic, some even predicting the end of the small coffee shop," he told Insider. 

Some brands have been able to adapt to a new normal, however. "Chains who made a strong pivot to at home consumption, focusing on programs like subscription services, seemed more resilient during the pandemic," Giuliano said.

The service will operate via Apple or Google digital wallets or QR codes, which are emailed to subscribers. 

As in the UK, customers have to wait 30 minutes between each order using the service. This is to prevent people buying drinks wastefully or for friends without a subscription, Insider's Grace Dean reported

"We recognize our customers need for ease, flexibility and value, and this subscription model will be able to provide that," said Jorrie Bruffett, president of Pret A Manger in the US.

Bruffett said the chain has also invested in new technology to enhance the overall customer experience. "This innovation in technology comes with a new app redesign and more exclusive perks to be launched later this year," he said in a statement. 

The subscription economy has experienced growth of more than 435% over the last nine years, according to Zuora, a subscription-management platform.

Like Pret, other chains in the restaurant space have tested out subscription-based models as a way to retain customers. Restaurants are following the success of models from Netflix and Amazon in the subscription sales industry, which is projected to hit $263 billion by 2025 according to Juniper Research. 

In 2020, Panera debuted an unlimited-coffee subscription for its MyPanera loyalty program members, which costs $8.99 a month, or about $108 annually. 

More recently, Taco Bell announced it is testing an in-app-only taco subscription in Arizona for $5. Customers who sign up for a Taco Lover's Pass can indulge in a free taco daily, for 30 days. 

Pret's subscription service forms part of a plan to boost sales and increase customer loyalty. 

The company's sales slumped 74% in 2020, compared with those in 2019. Insider's Grace Dean reported. It also cut a third of its UK workforce in 2020 and closed multiple stores in the US.

But Sean Keith, director of new business development at Eagle Eye, which powers Pret's subscription, previously told Insider that the subscription program was a success for bringing in new customers and keeping them coming back.

"We see businesses that are playing in subscriptions are out-competing businesses that are not," he said. 

Pret's classic plan is $19.99 a month and includes all organic coffees and teas with a flavored syrup add-on. 

Its premium plan costs $29.99 a month and includes all espresso-based, barista-made drinks, as well as organic coffees and teas with an espresso shot or flavored syrup add-on. Both plans include hot or iced drinks of any size.