MealPal, a lunch ordering app founded by Mary Biggins and Katie Ghelli, is preparing to expand into new markets after raising an additional $US20 million (£15 million) from investors last month.
Biggins and Ghelli — who met and became roommates at Colby College in Maine around 15 years ago — launched MealPal in New York City last year.
It has since been expanded to other densely populated cities in the UK (London and Manchester), Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), and France (Paris).
Some 3 million lunches have been ordered on MealPal in total, Biggins told Business Insider last week in London, where the company has teamed up with over 100 restaurants. But MealPal doesn’t intend to stop there.
‘We look at what is the tallest building in the market.’
“We have our eyes on a lot of places,” she said. “We haven’t definitely said anything yet. When we’re looking at new markets we really look at what’s the daytime population and what’s the daytime population vertically.
“So we look at what is the tallest building in the market and what does the skyline look like because that gives you a sense of how many people are going to be coming down to look for lunch. London is unique because London isn’t a super tall city but it has the density.”
MealPal lists one meal a day from each of its restaurant partners. Restaurants that use the platform tend to sell meals for £6 to £8 to normal customers but they sell their MealPal lunch for less than £5.
Earlier this year, I used it to get pizzas, burgers, and the occasional healthy meal. It was good because I ended up trying restaurants in London that I didn’t know existed. But I didn’t like the fact that you had to order lunch before 9:30am each day.
Explaining why MealPal works for restaurants and consumers, Biggins said: “We drive efficiency for the restaurants. They actually make more money on a MealPal order than they do on a regular order. That’s because labour is the most expensive part of what a restaurant is paying for — it’s more than the food cost.
“If you think about a restaurant preparing 100 of the exact same meals versus a bunch of orders as they come in, they can make those 100 orders at a lot lower labour cost. We’re able to then buy those meals from the restaurant at a lower cost, and then in return, let the the consumer buy their meals at a lower cost.”
MealPal is experimenting with allowing people to order dinner
Biggins hinted that MealPal users in some markets will soon be able to order dinner via the platform as well as lunch. This is something that the company is trialling in New York City. “I think dinner has a lot of the same challenges as lunch,” she said.
The company made another fundamental change to its service in London on Thursday by introducing on-demand ordering.
“In London we’re launching on-demand ordering,” Biggins said ahead of the change. “Currently when you use MealPal you have to order your lunch by 9:30am. That way we tell the restaurants in advance how many orders they’re getting. But if the consumer forgets to order by 9:30am then they miss out.
“We’ve been sort of testing behind the scenes figuring out how we can build an algorithm in order to predict what that demand might look like. We’ve been testing it in NYC and San Francisco without telling anybody that we were testing it. But London is the first market we officially launched it in.”
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