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Sweet Tea and Coffee Subscription Beverage Programs Brew Recurring Revenue

Carolyn Schnare Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


As summer nears, consumers are turning their attention towards refreshing iced beverages and iced tea is a hot seller this time of year, especially when sold with a subscription beverage program.

Sweet tea might be the quintessential drink of southerners in the U.S, but the rest of the country has developed a taste for the iced delicacy, too.

While the origins of tea produced in the U.S. can be traced back to 1795 when the first tea plants were grown in South Carolina, tea served over ice gained popularity with the widespread use of refrigerators. Iced tea was in even more demand during the infamous Prohibition Era in the early twentieth century and has grown into a restaurant staple today. To create a “proper” sweet tea, sugar is added to the tea just after hot brewing, according to the Food Network. If sweetener is added to a glass of iced tea after it is served, southerners will instinctively know “that person’s not from around here!” In fact, in most southern restaurants, when ordering iced tea you must specify unsweetened tea if you wish to skip the sugar as sweetness is the norm.


Fast Casual Restaurant Takes Pride in “World Famous” Sweet Tea

QSRs and convenience retailers are active in the tea craze, too. U.S. fast-casual retailer, McAlister’s Deli, was started in 1989 in a small town in Mississippi and is widely known for its “famous McAlister’s Sweet Tea”. With more than 400 stores, McAlister’s sells their signature beverage in large, 32-ounce servings with free refills for in-store diners.

McAlister’s Deli launched its very own subscription program called Tea Pass in June of 2021 coinciding with National Iced Tea Day, celebrated every June 10. McAlister’s month-long Sweet Sips Tea Fest concluded in July 2021 with the 13th annual Free Tea Day.


Beverage program example: The Tea Pass


The Tea Pass trial was wildly successful and was soon offered as a year-round, monthly renewable subscription to McAlister’s Rewards program members. For just $6.99, Tea Pass holders are entitled to one daily 32-ounce tea – sweet, unsweet, half & half (half sweet + half unsweet), or Lemonade + tea.


Cold Dispensed Beverages are Profitable for Convenience Stores

Foodservice and beverage sales are sure to have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels as people continue to return to regular activities. According to NACS Daily, the NACS State of the Industry Report for 2020 Data reported “prepared food sales declined 7.4% in 2020, and as expected, the pandemic had a huge impact on self-serve beverages. Hot dispensed sales fell 33.4%, and cold dispensed beverages declined 7.9%, reflecting the drop in footfall amid stay-at-home orders and work-from-home schedules.” 2021 sales data will be released in April and will surely show an improvement.

While innovations in fountain and drink dispensing technologies now offer customers sleek digital displays and other innovations, one of the hottest trends to invest in for food service providers and convenience retailers is subscription programs.

In May of 2021, Circle K launched Sip & Save, a beverage subscription program offering members one daily fountain, tea, frozen beverage, or coffee for just $5.99 a month. Sheetz also offers an unlimited monthly beverage subscription for $14.99 giving Sheetz Freakz 1 drink every 2 hours. Unlike McAlister’s Deli, convenience stores offer an advantage of self-service to customers, allowing for unique customization for drinks.


Circle K Sip & Save Beverage Program


Coffee Drinkers Around the World Love Beverage Programs, Too

Teas and coffees are certainly loved outside the United States, though generally preferred hot. In fact, Scandinavians and Northern Europeans top the list of coffee-consuming countries. And, with the ease of app-based subscriptions, the convenience for consumers is unparalleled. One such retailer that is capitalizing on those coffee-loving cultures is Espresso House.

Espresso House, is the fastest growing coffee shop brand in the Nordic region with over four hundred coffee shops locations across Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Germany. Their subscription coffee program was introduced in late 2020 and has seen incredible success in just over a year.

Espresso House subscription beverage program ad


Neighboring retailer R-Kiosk in Estonia also recently released an app-based coffee subscription and is also notable for leading the industry in digital innovation by deploying machine-learning to capture consumer behavior for relevant product offerings.


R-Kiosk slider promoting their coffee subscription program


Across the channel, UK-based Pret a Manger introduced their program called YourPret Barista which offers an amazing five coffees per day for £25 a month in the U.K. and $19 a month in the U.S. and similar offers in their other global operating regions.


Pret a Manger subscription


Get Started with Subscription Beverage Programs

Subscriptions ensure recurring revenue by recruiting high-value customers to pay a monthly fee toward fountain drinks, coffee, carwash, or any products, making these regular purchases as convenient as possible for your customer. When buying a monthly subscription in the app, customers can skip the line – quick and easy – the ultimate convenience. The team at Liquid Barcodes leads the industry with unparalleled customer service to assist retailers in the development and execution of flawless subscription programs.


About Liquid Barcodes

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specializing in the convenience and foodservice industries. The proprietary, cloud-based technology platform allows retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a process called the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers’ activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

Liquid Barcodes loyalty platform is powering car wash programs for industry leaders across several global markets, by offering unique subscription, mobile payment, gamificationloyalty, and personalization capabilities.

Learn more about Liquid Barcodes at


About the Author

Carolyn Schnare, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes

Carolyn Schnare has been involved with the convenience retailing industry for two decades with extensive knowledge of customer engagement and marketing, sustainability, and community outreach. Prior to Liquid Barcodes, Schnare worked at NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) in a variety of roles from event production to membership and most recently as Director of Strategic Initiatives and host and producer of the popular industry podcast, Convenience Matters.

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Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes