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Taco Bell launched a $10-per-month taco subscription. Photo: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The subscription economy is expanding into the drive-thru lane.

Why it matters: Subscriptions offer a source of dependable revenue, loyalty and data — the same elixir that fuels streaming services like Netflix and exercise powerhouses like Peloton.

  • The subscription economy grew nearly sixfold from 2012 to 2021, according to subscription management company Zuora’s Subscription Economy Index.

Driving the news: Fast-food chain Taco Bell on Thursday announced a $10-per-month subscription, Taco Lover’s Pass, for one taco per day.

  • Earlier this week, fast-casual chain Sweetgreen announced a special offer: $10 per month for $3-per-order discounts.
  • "There’s a lot of Americans eating fast food more than once a week, and if they see value in the subscription program, they will gladly subscribe," Adam Levinter, CEO of subscription consultancy Scriberbase and author of "The Subscription Boom," tells Axios.

Be smart: Services are often betting that many subscribers won’t take advantage of what they paid for. Subscription companies call it "breakage," Levinter says.

But restaurants like Taco Bell will benefit from subscribers who buy additional items and use their apps more often, providing data for marketing purposes.

  • When Taco Bell tested its subscription service in Tucson, Arizona, in September, 20% of subscribers were new to the Taco Bell Rewards loyalty program.

Between the lines: The strategy is also not likely a desperation pandemic move, either. The National Restaurant Association reported elevated same-store sales and customer traffic in the first half of 2021 compared to year-ago levels, which cooled only slightly in November.

  • 83% of restaurant operators said their same-store sales rose between November 2020 and November 2021, while only 7% reported a sales decline.

The bottom line: The subscription economy is entering a new dimension of our lives.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Jan. 6.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - Economy & Business

Media experts sound alarm on rise of paywalled content

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It’s a bull market for media companies targeting high-end readers, with Justin Smith and Ben Smith joining the likes of Puck, Air Mail, The Information, Axios, Punchbowl News, and others targeting influential, wealthy individuals with new digital publications.

Why it matters: "In this commercial environment, quality is being supported by paying audiences," said Rodney Benson, chair of NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. "Obviously, long-term, this is going to have tremendously negative civic effects."

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

2 hours ago - World

Netanyahu plea talks enter crunch time

Netanyahu (right) meets with his lawyer ahead of a court hearing last February. Photo: Reuven Casto/Pool/AFP via Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister, is negotiating a possible plea deal over the corruption charges against him, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit appears to be toughening his terms.

Why it matters: Mandelblit leaves office on Jan. 31. Negotiations could continue beyond that point, but the next attorney general may be less interested in quickly reaching a deal.