MealPal opens for lunch in downtown L.A., Century City
MealPal is launching in Los Angeles with daily lunch options from such restaurants as The Crack Shack. COURTESY OF MEALPAL
By Annlee Ellingson Staff Writer, L.A. Biz
original article: https://www.bizjournals.com/losangeles/news/2019/01/15/mealpal-opens-for-lunch-in-downtown-l-a-century.html
MealPal is open for business in Los Angeles.
The subscription lunch service, headquartered in New York, has expanded to downtown L.A. and Century City with daily lunch options from such restaurants as Tender Greens, Lemonade, Everytable, Piknic, Sweetfin Poke and Pez Cantina for less than six bucks per meal.
Here’s how it works: Every day, participating restaurants offer a dish to MealPal members, who can browse the options near them or filter by cuisine and ingredients. Then users can preorder their selected dish the night before or morning of and set a pickup time, at which point they can just pop in, skip the line and pick up their lunch with MealPal covering their tab.
MealPal is already available in 16 cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, Seattle, Sydney and Singapore.
“With many of the healthiest fast casual restaurants in the world calling Los Angeles home, it is a perfect market for MealPal,” said co-founder and CEO Mary Biggins in a statement. “We are excited to connect people working in DTLA and Century City with their favorite restaurants in an affordable and fun way.”
Angelenos can subscribe to a 20-meal plan for $5.99 per meal or a 12-meal plan for $6.39 per meal. MealPal members in L.A. can select from more than 150 restaurants offering thousands of meals at savings of more than 40 percent for the same dishes that cost $10 to $15 when ordered off the restaurant menu.
Founded in 2016 by Biggins, a co-founder of ClassPass, and Katie Ghelli, previously of Zocdoc, MealPal has facilitated more than 10 million reservations and paid more than $100 million to restaurant owners. The company, which employs 85 people, including five to get the service up and running in L.A., has raised $35 million in funding, per Crunchbase.
Biggins elaborated on MealPal’s expansion to Los Angeles via email, including why the service is a good fit for L.A., what she applied from her experience with ClassPass to the business and what inspired the idea in the first place.
What inspired you to launch MealPal?
Prior to MealPal, I struggled to get a good workday lunch. I’m impatient and cost-conscious, so I always found delivery expensive and waiting in line for food inefficient. MealPal solves both of those problems by making weekday lunches affordable and efficient to pick up. What’s more, I love working with small business owners. From supporting SMBs when I worked at Vistaprint to studio owners at ClassPass, I’ve found that I do my best work when helping other entrepreneurs solve pain points and grow their business.
What aspects of your previous company ClassPass did you bring to MealPal, and how is the business different?
Make the consumer experience as simple as possible. If you can create a product that consumers think “why wouldn’t I use this?” then you’ll be able to keep the cost of customer acquisition low while building a strong network effect. With MealPal, we see that the customer satisfaction grows as more and more colleagues join, creating new habits and social routines within offices.
Something that’s pretty unique about MealPal is the value we provide to the supply side of the marketplace (the restaurants). The largest cost that restaurant owners face is their labor cost. With MealPal, because we are sending restaurants a large order for just one menu item on a daily basis, the restaurants see efficiencies in their labor costs and are able to sell the meals to MealPal at a reduced rate. Restaurants have told us that we are their most valuable partner, and they prefer receiving orders from MealPal versus other ordering or delivery platforms.
Why did you decide to expand to Los Angeles now? Has the market presented any unique opportunities or challenges?
The restaurants that MealPal is partnering with in L.A. are centered in downtown and Century City — why did you choose those areas, and do you have plans to expand to other areas of the city as well?
We are launching in downtown L.A. and Century City to provide a better option for lunch for all of the people working in those areas. We know that those are the areas that have a high daytime population, and where some of the best restaurants in L.A. are located.
How did you go about securing partner restaurants in Los Angeles?
The MealPal team spent about six weeks building the product in L.A. The team meets with each individual restaurant owner to understand their business and put together a strong long-term partnership. We are launching in L.A. with well over 100 restaurants, including places like Lemonade, Crack Shack and Tender Greens.
What other opportunities do you see for MealPal in the future?
We have the opportunity to empower the world to eat intelligently, while also helping restaurants build better businesses. We believe that any meal a consumer is having should be the best possible meal for them at that time — based on their location, schedule and food preferences. We’ve built our business, so far, on lunch. However, we know that there are opportunities to expand beyond that meal and to be a solution for many more meals per week.
This story has been edited to reflect that the 12-meal plan costs $6.39 per meal.