The restaurant subscription, a winning model?

The case caused a stir. In October, Del Arte launched an unprecedented offer on the French market: a monthly subscription of 29.99 euros for one pizza a day. “We wanted to impress with an innovative and disruptive price proposition”, justifies Philippe Jean, general manager of the brand. In detail, the subscription costs 34.99 euros from the second month and gives access to seven recipes: five pizzas and two first courses. “Overall, the activity of the restaurant chains is not good with a level of profitability among the lowest in the restaurant sector sitting in France.recalls Philippe Jean. You have to be radical enough to rock the market. »

What profitability for this type of device?

To risk or fail, Del Arte made his choice. But can such an operation be profitable? “It may seem little, but we must not forget that the material cost of a pizza is low”, notes Grégoire Toulouse, Taylor Wessing’s lawyer. The mix of recipes has been carefully studied. “It’s a compromise between the easiest recipes to make, with inexpensive ingredients and the products you like the most, like the pizza maker”observes Philippe Jean.

Furthermore, Grégoire Toulouse observes, not all subscribers will come every day, according to the gymnasium principle. And they might want an extra drink or salad. “So, on the mass of customers, it could be profitable. We have to give experimentation a chance.”, says the lawyer. Del Arte bets on the sale of further products, as well as on the snowball effect. The subscriber, prescriber, could be accompanied by his family or friends. And make him want to sign up for the offer. “But there is a certain risk in juxtaposing a clientele who won’t pay anything, who devalues ​​the product, and a familiar clientele for whom it’s a party trip. It will be necessary to manage these different populations in the room”observes Anne-Claire Paré, head of the Bento company.

If it works, the device may be generalized

Del Arte, which started the operation in 13 restaurants, took a few weeks to expand the offer to another 15 establishments, to then extend it throughout the network in 2023 if the test proves to be conclusive. . “We have many requests from franchisees, but first we wanted to test branches with different locations – province, Ile-de-France, retail park, city center – to see if the type of establishment has an impact”, explains the general manager of Del Arte. The brand is also considering expanding the offer to healthier dishes, such as salads.

This consumer trend, the subscription economy, comes straight from the United States. The pioneer was Panera Bread, which in February 2020 launched an unlimited coffee offer for €9. A resounding success. “They won for two reasons: Heavy users came more often and consumed 70% of a solid grip”, explains Anne-Claire Paré. Even the fast food chain Taco Bell embarked on the adventure in early 2022 with a monthly subscription for 10 euros for a taco a day.

Two other brands have bet on season tickets in France

But if food streaming is popular across the Atlantic, will it be as successful in France? Hard to say at the moment, but two brands have validated the formula. First the British Pret A Manger. After a successful launch on the domestic market, the brand tested a monthly subscription of five hot drinks a day for 20 euros in France last year. The balance seems to have been found: the offer is still marketed, now priced at €25. Then UNI, a catering brand based in Lyon launched in 2021 by the trio Bruno Callus and brothers Baptiste and Benoît Lauby. The concept ? Menu at affordable subscription prices: for €5.90 a month, the customer gets a 40% discount on the menu.

How is such an equation possible? The founders have launched an application that facilitates the collection of customer feedback. “The idea is to generate information up and down. We are moving from a middle ground where the cook and the waiter develop the menu to a circular model where customers express their preferences. » The data collected allows UNI to anticipate orders. “We are just in time and we don’t throw anything away”continues Bruno Callus, who also ensures that each raw product is used from A to Z.

The inflationary environment could distort the results

Another lever to make the equation possible: purchases. In charge of 9 factories, UNI executives maintain close links with their suppliers, which allows them to negotiate advantageous prices. The choice of products also allows you to reduce costs. For the meat they mix orders between noble cuts and low cuts. For the wine they buy directly from small producers. Just over a year after their launch, with 1,000 subscribers and 2,000 covers a week, the two UNI-branded restaurants are profitable. “We want to open another one because the future is this economic model, not the traditional brewerylaunches Bruno Callus. But we’ll see what the next few months are like with inflation…” A complicated context that could also distort the Del Arte test.

Extract from the December 2022 magazine

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