The Future of Subscription Models in the Restaurant Industry: Lessons from Open Systems


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 10, 2023

3 min read


The Future of Subscription Models in the Restaurant Industry: Lessons from Open Systems


In the midst of the pandemic, restaurants have been forced to come up with innovative ways to survive. One strategy that has gained traction is offering subscription services for bottomless coffee, beer, and even meat boxes. While these subscriptions have seen varying degrees of success, they raise important questions about the future of the restaurant industry and the sustainability of this model. This article will explore the potential longevity of restaurant subscriptions, drawing insights from the concept of open systems and the importance of open technology and information.

The Rise of Restaurant Subscriptions:

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a Dallas-based chain, introduced a "meat box" subscription service that ranges from $100 to $280 per month. However, the company only shares 5 percent of the revenues with franchisees. Panera Bread, on the other hand, launched an $8.99-per-month subscription for unlimited coffee and hot tea, attracting 800,000 customers through free trials. Burger King and Cumberland Farms also tried their hand at coffee subscriptions, but their initiatives were short-lived. Despite the mixed results, over 55 percent of New Yorkers have expressed interest in subscribing to their favorite restaurants, highlighting the potential for this model to support struggling businesses.

The Power of Open Systems:

To understand the potential longevity of restaurant subscriptions, we can draw insights from the concept of open systems. Open systems, as exemplified by the standardization of railroad tracks in the 19th century, lead to more innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers. At Google, open systems are defined by open technology, which includes open source and open standards, and open information, which prioritizes user control and transparency. Open systems allow for innovation at all levels, fostering competition and driving the industry forward.

Lessons for the Restaurant Industry:

1. Embrace Open Technology:

The success of open systems lies in the adoption of open technology. Restaurants can benefit from utilizing open source software and adhering to open standards. This not only promotes innovation but also allows for collaboration and the building of a competitive ecosystem. By embracing open technology, restaurants can position themselves as thought leaders and attract customers through their commitment to progress and innovation.

2. Prioritize Open Information:

Transparency and user control are crucial in an open system. Restaurants should make it easy for customers to understand what information is collected and stored about them. Increasing transparency and offering options for users to manage their data builds trust and fosters a sense of empowerment. Gmail's free forwarding service is an example of how openness can enhance user engagement and promote choice.

3. Think Long-Term:

Open systems require a long-term perspective. While closed systems may experience rapid growth initially, open systems allow for continuous evolution and adaptation. Restaurants must be willing to invest in the long-term success of their subscription models and have the optimism, will, and means to think beyond short-term gains. By embracing open systems, restaurants can position themselves as industry leaders and tackle challenges that may seem impossible.


Restaurant subscriptions have emerged as a viable strategy for businesses to survive during the pandemic. By incorporating principles from open systems, such as open technology and open information, restaurants can create sustainable and innovative subscription models. Embracing open systems requires a long-term perspective and a commitment to transparency and user control. To thrive in an open system, restaurants must prioritize both thought leadership and fast innovation. By following these principles, restaurants can navigate the uncertain future and build a loyal customer base that values their commitment to progress and choice.

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