There is no such thing as a free lunch, as the old adage goes, which could be partly why one New York-based startup is raising big bucks to corner a lucrative culinary market.
Founded in 2016, MealPal offers a subscription lunch service that lets users order their meal online between 5 p.m. and 9:30 a.m. for collection at participating eateries. In its purest form, the service basically enables you to skip the line, letting you walk in and straight back out again with your food in hand. Indeed, one important distinction between MealPal and the countless other companies working in the food-ordering realm, such as GrubHub, JustEat, and Deliveroo, is that MealPal doesn’t do deliveries.
Prior to now, MealPal had raised $15 million from some notable names in the venture capital (VC) realm, including Bessemer Venture Partners and Comcast Ventures. And today the company has announced another follow-up tranche of funding via a $20 million series B round led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from existing investors.
How MealPal works
There are two MealPal subscription plans, which work out to $5.99 per meal based on 20 meals per month, or $6.39 for 12 meals. But this is charged at a flat monthly fee of $76.68 or $119.80 (not including fees and taxes), and it’s worth noting here that meals are only available on weekdays (not including holidays). This pretty much tells you all you need to know about this service, which is very much aimed at busy urban workers.
Members have to log in to reserve their meal each day, with each participating restaurant offering just one meal option through MealPal each day. For time-pressed city folks, a recurring option would be good here — for example, an option to place your orders for the entire week would save quite a bit of time. The company says that option is in the works.
“We know that some people like to book meals all at once, and we’ve been testing a ‘flex’ plan that lets members log in, see the menu for the entire week, and book all of their meals in advance,” MealPal cofounder Mary Biggins explained to VentureBeat. “This feature has been very popular thus far, and we plan to roll out to more members in the future.”
Known as MealPass when it launched in New York City back in March 2016, the service was rebranded as MealPal six months later. Today, it’s available in Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington DC in the U.S, while internationally it has also touched down in London and Manchester (U.K.), Melbourne and Sydney (Australia), and Toronto (Canada).
The company’s fresh cash injection will be used to launch MealPal in new cities across its existing markets, in addition to completely new country launches across Europe. The company also harbors meal ambitions that extend beyond lunch — it’s currently testing out a dinner program in New York, something that will likely be expanded to other cities as well. Dinners work pretty much the same way as the existing lunch subscription service, with 20-meal plans coming in at $6.49 each ($129.80 per month), or $6.99 ($83.88) on a 12-meal plan, which MealPlan said is substantially cheaper than the standard menu prices at many of its eateries, which can go up to $15.
“MealPal’s unique pick-up model is shaking up the food service industry, improving mealtime for both consumers and restaurants alike,” noted Menlo Ventures managing director Venky Ganesan, who will also now serve as a MealPal board member. “Their lunchtime success and ability to secure such a large subscriber base in a short amount of time gives us full confidence in their expansion into dinner and into further cities globally.”