MealPal takes on Deliveroo and UberEats with subscription lunch service

The startup wants to “take the anxiety” out of weekday lunches with a cheaper option for office workers.

MealPal

One day in 2015, Mary Biggins was strolling around Wholefoods and looked at the quantities of food it was serving. She wondered: What if her favourite pie restaurant could do the same, but at scale? And with that, the idea for MealPal was born.

The startup, which launches in London this week, provides a lunch subscription service. And it has an unusual business model.

The service costs £4.79 per meal on a 12-meal plan or £4.39 per meal on a 20-meal plan. While Deliveroo and UberEATS focus on delivery, MealPal looks to change consumer behaviour by forcing them to plan ahead and order their lunch the day before.

It only allows users to pick one dish from each restaurant, and there’s no room for customisation. It is pick-up only – but consumers can jump to the front of the queue.

Nevertheless, Biggins is convinced that customers quickly get used to this unfamiliar format. The business was founded in Miami in January 2016, and has since expanded to Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. London is the first city that MealPal has launched in outside the US.

So far, it has signed up around 125 restaurant partners in London. To build the business in the UK, the company is predominantly focused on referral based marketing and direct marketing on social platforms.

If you’re going to use UberEATS, you’re going to probably be paying £12 for your meal. It makes you feel bad for spending that much money. We make it affordable.

Mary Biggins, MealPal

“We really believe people have to experience it, so they realise it can be a very good fit for them. Our biggest initial marketing cost is letting people try it for free, but it’s an extremely powerful channel for us as it offers people a great experience,” she tells Marketing Week.

When questioned on how the brand can stand out in such a saturated market place, Biggins insists that competitors such as UberEATS simply “aren’t affordable or accessible” as an every day option.

“If you’re going to use UberEATS, you’re going to probably be paying £12 for your meal. It makes you feel bad for spending that much money. We make it affordable by offering terrific meals for under £5. It’s also pretty good to get up you’re from desk and get out of the office,” she explains.

MealPal also looks to take the “anxiety” out of lunch by using artificial intelligence (AI), which recommends meals depending on people’s preferences.

“Having too much choice can lead to anxiety. We use AI so that when someone signs up, they can answer questions about their food preferences and based off that, we know what meals they’d rate favourably. It’s again about delivering the best possible consumer experience,” she concludes.

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Comments
  • Dalin Ard 20 Feb 2017 at 5:06 am

    Very interesting idea, but if I am completely honest, there are too many negative aspects of this business model to successfully compete with similar companies such as UberEATS. The main reason is that MealPal forces consumers to make a commitment that I do not believe most consumers are going to make. Consumers would have to commit to entire weeks at a time, when most people usually do not decide what they want for lunch until they are on their lunch break. While the individual meals would work out to be cheaper than those using UberEATS, the main purpose of these companies seem to be for a quick delivery service on the occasion when someone forgets their lunch or are too busy to go out and get it themselves. Therefore, I do not personally believe that people are going to commit to a meal “subscription” such as this. Additionally, the severe lack of customization options is a huge disadvantage. If you are using UberEATS, you can order exactly what you want. With MealPal, there is one meal option per restaurant. I do not know if I personally know a restaurant that I like anything from, and I do not consider myself very picky. Once again, I think a subscription-based food delivery service is interesting, but I do not trust that it has the ability to compete with the already successful UberEATS.

  • Macy Graver 21 Feb 2017 at 4:58 am

    I am a huge fan of this concept of ordering ahead so you can go pick up your meals during any breaks you have during a busy day of work. This idea first off is beneficial because being someone who strives to eat healthy, I am going to choose something a bit better for my body if it is the day before opposed to caving in to a worse off alternative. Next, I appreciate how they want to accommodate their business to everyone with better looking prices compared to that of UberEats and other delivery services. Spending money on delivering a meal really adds up after sometime and cannot be an everyday thing for the average individual. Lastly, it is so great how they are expanding abroad to London and that it is the first city which MealPal has launched outside of the United States. This now gives people living abroad the option to pick up a meal rather than choosing another alternative. I would really love to see MealPal brought to my city because I am very curious to see how it would play out in comparison to other delivery services. It is so wonderful to see how much interest they have in the customers experience in order to make their services fit for them.

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