Summary: Restaurant subscription services are transforming the dining industry. They present a viable revenue model and foster customer loyalty by offering exclusive dining experiences. Efficient payment handling and customer satisfaction are crucial, making tools like Square Subscriptions or Lightspeed Subscriptions indispensable. The key for restaurants lies in striking the right mix of convenience, variety, and value to ensure successful and sustainable subscription programs.
There’s a growing trend in our industry: membership services. These aren’t just about selling food, they’re about building a community and offering something unique, like private events, priority reservations, or special gourmet deliveries.
This approach can help your restaurant have a steady income and keep customers coming back.
In the Q3 2023 Restaurant Industry Report by Square, they analyzed trends in consumer spending, wages, operations, and marketing strategies. The data, drawn from their food and beverage sellers, reveals a notable 54% year-over-year growth in active buyer subscriptions as of August 2023.
And, 57% of these subscriptions remained active after six months. This underscores the sustainability and appeal of subscription models in the food and beverage sector.
This article gives you practical tips and includes 35 ideas to help you start and run a subscription or membership program that can grow your business and strengthen your customer relationships.
The Appeal of Subscription Models
For restaurants, subscription models are becoming a smart way to handle the challenges of inflation and uncertain economic times. These models can provide a stable source of income and help keep customers coming back.
Stable Income: One of the biggest benefits of subscriptions is that they offer a steady flow of money. This makes it easier to plan your budget and grow your business, even when the market is unpredictable.
Loyal Customers: Subscriptions also encourage customer loyalty. Data from Square shows that most customers with active subscriptions keep coming back. This ongoing relationship means more regular visits and engagement than you might get from one-time customers.
Diverse Offerings: With subscriptions, you can offer a range of products, like special jams or monthly meal passes. This not only attracts new customers but also keeps your regulars interested and coming back for more.
Easy Payments: Automated payments, like those managed by Square Subscriptions, simplify how you handle money, making things easier for you and your customers.
Better Customer Experience: Subscriptions mean customers don’t have to order each time they want something. They get a regular service or product with no extra effort, which is a big plus for them.
Tapping into Trends: Subscriptions are becoming more popular because they offer personalization and consistency, which a lot of customers now look for.
In short, subscription models are a great tool for today’s restaurants. They help keep customers engaged, make your finances more stable, and fit well with current consumer trends. With the right approach and tools, you can use subscriptions to grow and strengthen your business.
35 Restaurant Membership and Subscription Ideas
1. Prepaid Dining Credit: Offer a subscription where members receive a set amount of prepaid credits for food and beverages each month, which can renew automatically.
2. Exclusive Culinary Experiences: Create a program where members can access unique dining experiences, such as chef’s table dinners, wine and cooking demonstrations, and meet-and-greets with culinary teams.
3. Priority Reservation and Concierge Service: Provide subscribers with a dedicated text line to make reservations well in advance and handle special requests, enhancing their convenience and exclusivity.
4. Member-Only Events: Host special events, like tasting sessions, workshops, and social gatherings exclusively for members, to build a community and offer unique value.
5. Monthly Tasting Menus: Implement a regular tasting menu option exclusively for members, potentially including off-menu items or previews of new dishes.
6. Birthday and Anniversary Perks: Celebrate members’ special occasions with complimentary desserts, cocktails, or discounts.
7. Wine Clubs: Establish a monthly or quarterly wine club where members receive a curated selection of wines, possibly paired with food items.
8. Discount Programs: Offer members a standing discount on meals, drinks, or ticketed events as part of their subscription benefits.
9. Credits for Non-Alcoholic Beverages: For non-alcoholic bars, offer a subscription model that includes credits for specialty drinks and guest passes.
10. Wellness and Healthy Living Clubs: Create subscriptions for establishments emphasizing health and wellness, with access to nutritionist-curated menus or health-conscious meal kits.
11. Cooking and Mixology Classes: Provide members with access to exclusive classes where they can learn cooking techniques or mixology from experts.
12. Travel Recommendations: For worldly or regionally themed restaurants, offer subscribers exclusive travel tips or guides that align with the restaurant’s cuisine style.
13. Home Enjoyment Packages: Craft subscriptions for take-home meals or DIY kits, allowing members to enjoy a restaurant-quality experience at home.
14. Cultural Experience Subscriptions: Offer subscriptions centered around cultural experiences, such as live music, traditional dances, or art displays that accompany dining.
15. Retail and Merchandise Discounts: Give members access to exclusive or discounted restaurant-branded merchandise, which can range from apparel to homemade sauces or cookbooks.
16. Personalized Wine or Beverage Consultation: Include a service where sommeliers or beverage directors offer personalized consultations for members’ events or personal preferences.
17. Food and Beverage Pairing Guidance: Create a subscription that provides members with expert advice on pairing courses with the perfect drink selections.
18. Special Access to New Releases: Give subscribers early or exclusive access to new menu items, seasonal dishes, or limited-time offerings.
19. Partner Establishments Benefits: Collaborate with other venues or businesses to offer cross-promotional subscriptions that include benefits across multiple establishments.
20. Virtual Engagement Opportunities: Enable subscribers to engage with the restaurant virtually through online cooking classes, virtual tours, or online taste-testing events.
21. Local and Seasonal Subscription Boxes: Capitalize on the farm-to-table trend by offering subscription boxes that include fresh, locally sourced produce and seasonal menu items celebrating the region’s diversity.
22. Chef’s Seasonal Feature: Create a subscription plan that allows members to regularly indulge in a menu crafted around the season’s best offerings, ensuring a unique dining experience with each visit.
23. Community-Supported Restaurant (CSR) Programs: Develop a model akin to community-supported agriculture where subscribers invest upfront in exchange for a share of the restaurant’s harvest in the form of meals or produce.
24. Exclusive Seasonal Events: Offer members the chance to join exclusive seasonal events that highlight local ingredients, such as harvest dinners, spring festivals, or a summer seafood series.
25. Culinary Education Subscriptions: Integrate a culinary education aspect with subscriptions that offer cooking classes, demonstrations, or recipe kits based on the restaurant’s menu staples.
26. Wine and Cultural Education: Curate subscription events focusing on wine education and tastings, complete with cultural explorations that match the theme of the restaurant’s cuisine.
27. Themed Culinary Events: Create monthly or quarterly dining events tied to different cultural or seasonal themes exclusively for members.
28. Eco-Friendly Dining Subscriptions: Attract eco-conscious patrons with subscriptions that emphasize sustainable dining experiences, including minimal waste packaging and support for local green initiatives.
29. Giftable Dining Passes: Allow subscribers to purchase dining passes or membership tiers as gifts, including options for personalization and specific celebratory packaging.
30. Brand Education Programs: Establish subscriptions that allow members to become brand ambassadors through experiential learning about the restaurant’s mission, sourcing, and culinary practices.
31. Personalized Gourmet Subscriptions: Curate gift subscriptions that cater to the individual preferences of the recipient, with options for personal messages and tailored menus.
32. Wine Pairing Subscriptions: Offer members access to a subscription service that pairs the perfect wines with their meals, either during a restaurant visit or for home consumption.
33. Membership Culinary Rewards: Develop an incentive-based subscription where membership spending accrues points for exclusive culinary rewards, such as private dinners, specialty item tastings, or cooking equipment.
34. Craft Beverage Clubs: For beverage-centric eateries, offer a subscription service for craft beer, artisanal sodas, or unique non-alcoholic concoctions.
35. Holiday Meal Subscriptions: Introduce a subscription service where patrons can order holiday-specific meals for pick-up or delivery, featuring traditional dishes with a local twist.
Remember, successful subscription and membership programs depend on the perceived value by the members, their alignment with the dining establishment’s brand, and the ability to deliver consistent and exclusive benefits that enhance the dining experience.
Restaurant POS Systems for Managing Subscriptions
Two examples of leading restaurant POS systems that also have subscription capabilities are Square and Lightspeed.
Square Subscriptions offers several key features to tailor the subscription experience:
- Customizable Billing Models: You can set up payment schedules that work for both your business and your customers.
- Free Trial Options: Attract new customers by offering a taste of your subscription service without any upfront payment.
- Different Subscription Lengths: Adjust the length of your subscriptions to match what your customers want, from short-term to long-term.
- Recurring Billing: Choose from different billing intervals to fit various subscription types.
Easy Sign-Up for Customers: Square makes it simple for customers to subscribe with:
- Checkout Links: Create and share custom online subscription links.
- QR Codes: Use QR codes in your restaurant for easy on-site sign-ups.
- Social Media Links: Reach more customers by sharing subscription links on digital platforms.
Managing Subscriptions with Square: With Square Subscriptions, you can:
- Instantly update plan details.
- Pause or resume plans, giving flexibility to you and your customers.
- Keep payment information current for continuous service.
Affordable Service: Square Subscriptions is cost-effective, with no monthly fees. It charges a transaction processing rate of 2.9% + 30 cents, with even lower rates for premium plans.
Recommended reading: Square for Restaurants POS Review
This service enables businesses to offer products or services on a subscription basis, integrated with Lightspeed’s POS and e-commerce solutions, Lightspeed Payments, and Stripe.
Key features include:
- Enhancing Customer Retention: It automates subscription programs to increase customer loyalty and lifetime value, reducing customer acquisition costs.
- Effective Inventory Management: The service is particularly useful in managing slow-moving inventory through surprise subscription boxes.
- Improved Sales and Inventory Forecasting: It assists businesses in accurately forecasting sales and inventory needs by understanding expected recurring orders.
- Customized Branding Experience: Businesses can tailor their communication with customizable email templates for various subscription-related confirmations and updates.
Recommended reading: Lightspeed Restaurant POS Review (November 2023)
Types of Restaurant Subscription Programs
Restaurants are getting creative with their subscription models, offering different types that appeal to various tastes and dining styles. The goal of these programs is to keep customers interested and coming back for more.
Monthly Credits and Meal Tickets: Some subscriptions use a fixed monthly credit system. This lets customers enjoy meals on their schedule and manage their spending. “Meal tickets” offer a certain number of meals for a set price, giving customers a good reason to visit multiple times each month.
Curated Dining Experiences: These subscriptions turn a meal into a special event. They might include wine tastings, cooking demos, private events with well-known chefs, or personalized wine advice. Features like a text concierge for easy reservations add to the customer’s experience, making the restaurant feel more exclusive.
Rotating Menus and Seasonal Offers: Changing the menu regularly or offering seasonal dishes keeps things exciting for customers. They’ll look forward to trying something new each time. Restaurants can use email and social media to let people know about these changes, keeping them engaged and looking forward to what’s next.
Members-Only Events: Successful subscription models often include exclusive events, like tasting nights or gourmet classes. These events are not just about eating but also about enjoying food culture and socializing. They make the restaurant feel exclusive and help build a community around it.
Restaurant membership programs often use the idea of exclusivity to make dining out feel more special. This can turn a regular meal into an experience that feels like a privilege, appealing to customers who enjoy feeling like they’re part of an exclusive group.
Members-Only Events: Events only open to members, like special dinners, early menu access, or exclusive wine tastings, create a sense of being in an elite club. These unique experiences go beyond just eating and help build a strong emotional connection with the restaurant.
Priority Booking: One of the biggest perks for members is being able to book tables easily, especially during busy times. This makes members feel important and taken care of, increasing their satisfaction and loyalty to the restaurant.
Special Menu Access: Members might get to try secret or off-menu dishes, or sample new items before anyone else. This keeps dining exciting and turns regular meals into special events. Restaurants can also create personalized experiences for occasions like birthdays, making each visit memorable.
Personalized Text Concierge Service: This service lets members book tables, ask questions, and make requests easily through text messages. It’s a convenient way to get personalized attention and makes each dining experience effortless and enjoyable.
By offering these exclusive features, restaurants can make dining out about more than just food. It becomes an eagerly awaited experience that’s only available to members, helping to build loyalty and set the restaurant apart in a competitive market.
Tiered Membership Benefits
Restaurants can use a tiered membership system to give customers more choices and encourage them to engage more deeply. This system lets members pick a level that fits their lifestyle and dining preferences, helping restaurants serve a wide range of customers.
How to Set Up a Tiered System: The key is to offer better benefits at each level. For example, the starting level might have dining credits or vouchers, while higher levels offer unlimited reservations with priority seating.
Different Perks for Different Levels: Basic levels could start with discounts and special offers. As members move up, they could get access to private events, priority on waitlists, and even discounts on catering for their events. Regular deals at mid-levels keep customers interested, with exclusive perks and savings for top-tier members.
Personalization at Higher Tiers: For members at higher levels, personalization is important. This could be custom wine advice, personalized gift cards, or special freebies on important occasions. These touches make members feel valued and deepen their connection to the restaurant.
Special Events for Top Tiers: The highest levels might offer unique experiences like special dinners, cooking classes with famous chefs, or tasting menus showcasing the chef’s skills. These experiences are a big draw for customers looking for more than just a meal.
A tiered membership system like this can help with customer engagement, loyalty, and the overall dining experience. It meets the changing wants and needs of customers, giving them reasons to keep coming back.
Loyalty and Rewards Programs
Implementing a rewards program is a key strategy for nurturing customer relationships. These programs, centered around rewarding repeat visits, are essential in showing your customers they’re valued and appreciated.
Setting Up a Points-Based Loyalty System: Consider introducing a system where customers earn points for every dollar they spend. These points could be redeemed for future discounts or complimentary items. Such a system not only encourages frequent visits but also increases the amount spent per visit, as customers enjoy the feeling of earning rewards.
The Power of Small Incentives: Remember, it’s often the little perks that make the biggest impact. Offering a complimentary beverage or dessert can significantly enhance a customer’s experience. Additionally, providing gift cards or vouchers for special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries deepens the personal connection with your customers.
Enhancing Your Rewards Program: To add more value to your program, you might include exclusive previews of new dishes, priority reservations, or even cashback offers. These perks are a way of thanking your loyal customers and encouraging them to keep coming back.
Benefits of a Strong Rewards System: Implementing a rewards program demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and helps to build a robust loyalty program. This not only strengthens your relationship with your customers but also enhances your restaurant’s reputation and trustworthiness.
Starting a subscription and membership program represents a shift in how you can build lasting relationships with your customers and create stable revenue streams.
Innovative Customer Experiences: By adopting subscription services, you’re showing a dedication to providing more than just a typical dining experience. This can lead to a better, more personalized, and convenient experience for your patrons.
Growing and Stabilizing Your Business: Beyond pleasing customers, these programs establish a predictable income flow, which is especially valuable in uncertain economic times. This consistent revenue is not just good for growth but also acts as a cushion, contributing to the long-term stability of your restaurant.
Using POS Systems: Tools like Square or Lightspeed Subscriptions are essential for managing these programs effectively. They make it easier for you to launch and maintain your subscription services, offering features like customized billing, flexible subscription terms, and simple recurring payment management.