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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."

FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly COVID antibody treatments

A coldbox containing monoclonal antibody treatments at a Regeneron clinic in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in August. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FDA said Monday it's limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies as COVID-19 treatments because data indicates they're "highly unlikely" to be effective against the dominant Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The FDA revised the authorizations for Regeneron and Eli Lilly "to limit their use to only when the patient is likely to have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments," per a statement from the agency.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.