Are restaurant subscription services the new streaming wars?

It’s happened, even fast food has now gone tech

You’d be hard pressed to find an industry these days that wasn’t incorporating technology. Even something as ancient as masonry, a form of work that dates back to the ages before the pyramids, is embracing modern tech. Sorry, bub, a brick-laying robot is now doing your job. 

The newest tech romance on the horizon — fast food. Now technology and fast food is really nothing new. The two have pretty much been intertwined since fast food came into existence. McDonald’s revolutionized how we get burgers in a quick fix, then of course, up through the introduction of the drive-thru ordering speaker and now all those apps that can locate the nearest KFC and place a fried chicken order at the swipe of a thumb. 

One company is taking things to the next level though — and it’s Taco Bell. The Live Más Mexican fast food joint has recently launched a taco subscription service dubbed, “Taco Lover’s Pass.”

It’s a pretty simple concept: for $5 to $10 (depending on location) Taco Bell fans get one taco a day for 30 days. Customers can only subscribe to the pass buy purchasing it through Taco Bell’s app. As The Atlantic put it, we seem to be entering a new phase when it comes to technology and fast food, calling the new rollout “Netflix for tacos.”

Could restaurant subscriptions become the norm?

Few would have predicted 15 years ago the rise of Netflix and its ever-growing list of competitors, but here we are, sending more cable subscriptions into the abyss every day. In fact, Taco Bell isn’t the first major chain to try out a food subscription service. 

Fast casual sandwich and coffee chain, Panera, launched a similar concept in 2020, called “MyPanera+” where for $9 a month, subscribers got unlimited coffee or tea. Some 750,00 people reportedly took Panera up on the offer. Burger King also tried a subscription service — though it was coffee only and who claims BK as their favorite coffee joint? Thus, it was soon abandoned.

While restaurant subscriptions are uncharted territory, that doesn’t mean consumers aren’t at least curious about them. According to a Restaurant Business poll, 55% of NYC residents would consider signing up for some sort of restaurant subscription service.

With Taco Bell’s new app-based subscription, it begs the question of what lays ahead for the interweaving of tech and something as simple as eating out? Will there be auto-renewals? Will Taco Bell fans protest online when the rate inevitably goes up? Will the Taco Bell big shots one day have to testify before Congress about customer data tracking just as the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter have been ordered to do?

For now, the taco subscription is merely an experiment that’s only in 17 states, but the “concept makes a lot of sense,” restaurant analyst Peter Saleh told Yahoo News.

“Overall, I think if you’re buying this pass, whether it’s $5 or $10, I think you’re gonna feel somewhat obligated to go there more often,” Saleh explained.

“And we do know that loyalty guests come back two to three times more frequently than non-loyal guests and spend 25% to 30% more,” he added. 

Perhaps it’s not a question of will this sort of trend catch on, but when will your favorite brand jump on the bandwagon?

Photos via Taco Bell, Burger King

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