When a startup called MealPass promised a new way to find the perfect work lunch, I immediately signed up. However, one month later, I’m reevaluating my decision.
A little over one month ago, my coworker Mallory Schlossberg and I heard about a new startup from one of the founders of ClassPass that applied the fitness startup’s model to the lunch business. MealPass, the brainchild of Katie Ghelli and ClassPass cofounder Mary Biggins, promised a month of lunches every day of the work week for the flat rate of $99 (now bumped to $119 for New Yorkers).
Paying $5 a meal instead of spending $12 on a salad seemed like a godsend.
However, after one month of using MealPass, Mallory has canceled her membership. While I’m still a user, I downgraded to the company’s less expensive plan, which costs $79 for 12 meals a month.
Here are the four major reasons that MealPass isn’t quite worth the $119 a month.
1. Limited options
If you’re dairy or gluten-free, MealPass isn’t the best option. While the startup has already significantly expanded its offerings since Mallory ate nothing but Mulberry and Vine for a week, offerings are still pretty limited.
This problem is made significantly worse by the fact that you can’t filter for dietary restrictions or ask for any modifications. Instead, users are forced to scroll through options, hoping that today there will be more than one meal that isn’t covered in cheese.
2. Subpar tech
The lack of a solid app magnifies everything that’s wrong with MealPass. Problems from limited options to the strict time span to order would be less annoying if finding the right meal didn’t involve scrolling through the often lagging MealPass website. Even the filters that the website currently has are still mostly unhelpful when trying to pick out a meal.
A well-crafted app, with well-defined filters, would be an incredible upgrade on the current MealPass experience of scrolling through endless meals you don’t want to eat.
3. Unhealthy meals
Confession time: If I could eat a burrito every day for lunch without quickly beginning to feel disgusting and packing on the pounds, I would. So, for me, looking at MealPass’ offerings and realising that I should probably order the almost-filling salad instead of the beautiful burrito is a daily challenge in making nutritious decisions.
MealPass has a handful of great filling and tasty offers, but overall I would say my weekly lunch schedule has gotten slightly less healthy since joining MealPass. Even when I opt for an apparently nutritious option, sometimes I’m left feeling the healthier choice would have simply been packing my own meal.
4. Pressure to get your money’s worth
My biggest issue with MealPass is self-imposed. The pressure to make sure I get my money’s worth from the app (especially after Eater reported rumours that
MealPass only makes money when users don’t order food) takes away some of my lunchtime enjoyment.
I don’t want to miss a day, so I pick up food even if I’m busy during lunch. I want to make the most of my money, which means strategising which restaurants offer the most value. Every day, I’m weighing the distance I’d walk for my food versus what I actually want to eat versus the nutritional information — all adding to the stress that MealPass is intended to remove. The fact that I’m travelling this month, plus have an upcoming project that will require eating elsewhere for lunch, added to the stress that I wouldn’t get my money’s worth this month — especially as costs rise to $119.
Despite my complaints, I still enjoy MealPass for the most part and have eaten some great lunches thanks to the startup.
So, I decided to downgrade to the $79 plan. After a month at the more inexpensive option, I may return to the $119 plan, especially if MealPass has worked out some of its kinks.
However, if the startup doesn’t fix a couple big issues, I can also see myself quitting the app for good once it gets chilly out, when walking 15 minutes in the slush to pick up lunch seems less appealing than ever.
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