MealPal brings subscription savings to lunch

Discussion
Photo: MealPal
May 30, 2018
Tom Ryan

MealPal, a subscription service that promises more than 40 percent off lunch for consumers, continues to gain traction. The service launched this month in Seattle, its fourteenth city.

Largely aimed at urban office workers, MealPal offers two subscription tiers: a 20-day package per month for $5.59 per meal or a 12-day package per month for $5.99 per meal. MealPal said that compares to prices ranging from $10 to $15 when ordered off the menus of participating local restaurants, such as Din Tai Fung, Evergreens Salad, Pike Place Chowder, Pokeworks, 206 Burgers, Pasta Casalinga and Kigo Kitchen.

The restaurants offer one meal per day. Customers submit their order through the MealPal app the night before or by 9:30 a.m., set a pickup time and fetch their meal without waiting in line.

For restaurants, MealPal brings new customers, but they also benefit from receiving orders well in advance and the labor savings stemming from preparing bulk orders. Likening it to the catering model, MealPal says making one meal multiple times is much quicker than making a variety of individual meals.

“The biggest expense for them is labor costs, but because they are making only one meal per day for MealPal they are able to make it much more efficient,” Mary Biggins, MealPal’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch last year.

Consumers earn significant savings, avoid long lines at their pick-up spot, and get to continually try different meals from a variety of places.

One drawback is that orders must be picked up. A number of on-demand services support delivery, albeit generally at menu prices plus delivery fees. MealPal believes the meal savings and a desire to take a break from work encourage many to use the service.

The meals are only available on weekdays (not including holidays) and customers lose meals if their allotment (12 or 20 meals) for that month isn’t used. Some slightly pricier rollover options are available. The one-meal per restaurant limits options, but MealPal has attracted a number of establishments, including more than 150 in its Seattle launch.

MealPal said it has served more than eight million meals since its launch in 2016 and reached several other major cities including New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney, Paris and Toronto.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is the MealPal lunch subscription service to succeed in the U.S.? What do you see as the challenges and opportunities for the service and participating restaurants?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Simplicity plus discount is a compelling consumer combination."
"The risk to me is the subscription portion — how to make the meal selection look unlimited. We all know that consumers are funny that way..."
"The only consumer drawback is that the meals aren’t delivered, which might be cured in the future..."

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12 Comments on "MealPal brings subscription savings to lunch"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I see this as a novel idea, but I don’t know if it will be a significant winner long-term. We have so much to choose from today and if the customer has to pick up their order that gives them even more options. The $5.59 or $5.99 per day cost is excellent but only if the customer is willing to commit to the monthly minimum. As a result, that too may become an issue going forward because people like change, possibly going out to lunch one day or if they are traveling or working from home, they won’t be using the MealPal service. I do see this as a business that will survive for a while with a limited audience who as long as they’re happy with the quality of the food will make MealPal reasonably successful.

Max Goldberg
Guest

MealPal’s offerings help users manage their dining budgets and restaurants’ bottom lines. It’s a service that can only work in urban area, which is fine, since Millennials flock to these centers. The question is whether that same demographic, which is used to having almost everything it wants delivered, will walk to a local restaurant to pick up lunch.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

This sounds like Groupon to me. Sign up your restaurant and we’ll bring you tons of business. Which I’m sure they will. While it might cover costs, it is still discount marketing. Think those savvy Millennials are going to return and pay full price? Doubtful.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Groupon. Right! I am agreeing with you. Again. #itstheendoftheworldasweknowit

Jon Polin
BrainTrust

Simplicity plus discount is a compelling consumer combination, so I think this will continue to grow. With all the action in the food delivery space, however, I wonder about the longer-term defensibility. But with enough traction, maybe someone will buy them.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust

The MealPal subscription plan has potential. In many cities, pre-ordering of meals and meal pickups are a legitimate business. If you’re wondering about this, have a look at someone like Ritual who is doing an amazing job at this already.

The risk to me is the subscription portion — how to make the meal selection look unlimited. We all know that consumers are funny that way — they crave choice until there’s too much … and then there’s just enough. A subscription puts a “box” around all the wonderful restaurants that MealPal has gathered so keeping consumers away from a limited menu perception will be key.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

MealPal’s savings and conveniences are great, but Millennials are already showing love for food delivery service apps like GrubHub and EAT24. I would like this idea a whole lot better if it included delivery.

Byron Kerr
BrainTrust

While the discount model is nice, it’s hard to compete with the UberEats, Doordashes and GrubHubs of the world. If this discounted, pre-order model gained national traction, it would be interesting to see UE/DD/GH offering up group discounts to incentivize larger orders, which can already be tied into their scheduling feature.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Convenience and good price is a winning combination for sure and MealPal will continue to grow with it. The only consumer drawback is that the meals aren’t delivered, which might be cured in the future as more and more delivery is automated in some shape or form. For restaurants, the only way it works is if it’s truly incremental business that’s not prepared at a loss.

Jeff Miller
Guest
Cost saving and simplicity will always be in style so I see a good chance for MealPal to succeed as long as they partner with the right restaurants and help people will diverse food tastes get what they want. I look forward to testing this out when they come to Los Angeles. I find it interesting that the founding team came from ClassPass which worked in a very similar way for gyms, yoga studios and other fitness businesses. I ran marketing for a large yoga chain that tried to hold off from using ClassPass for a long time because in the long term, it was a race to the bottom and lowered expectations of what people thought they could pay. But like Groupon, which was mentioned in a comment below, the new user acquisition at low cost was too tempting and we focused on converting ClassPass users to better paying studio users. Will be interesting to see how this competes with so much food delivery options and how restaurants feel it works for their business… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I haven’t seen their financials — which admittedly is the whole issue here — but this seems like the glory days (if that’s the right term for it) of Dotcom 1.0, where businesses gave stuff away, and then crowed about a new paradigm … until they came to realize cash flow really DOES matter.

I wish them well, but I’m inherently suspicious of a company that claims “40% off.” It seems either too good to be true or has too many qualifications to be meaningful.

John McIndoe
BrainTrust

I love that MealPal represents a new concept to both boost sales and pull consumers into the store. It should be part of every retailers’ strategy to identify high-value shoppers and offer them new choices. MealPal has already earned more traction than many other new retail concepts and therefore has found a niche. How large and profitable that niche will be over the long term is too early to tell.

Two strategies that I believe will be critical for success: First is the ability to appeal to local tastes. Second is the ability to activate shoppers to purchase other products while they are in the store picking up lunch. If MealPal can get these two strategies right, they have a winner.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Simplicity plus discount is a compelling consumer combination."
"The risk to me is the subscription portion — how to make the meal selection look unlimited. We all know that consumers are funny that way..."
"The only consumer drawback is that the meals aren’t delivered, which might be cured in the future..."

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