After launches in New York and three other cities, an co-founder of ClassPass is bringing her meal app to Chicago. Formerly MealPass, MealPal is now available in Chicago, offering Chicagoans meals from a selection of 63 mostly-downtown fast-casual restaurants. Members pay $119 per month in hopes of taking the guesswork out of weekday lunch.
Co-founder Mary Biggins said they considered Chicago as their initial market but then "decided they had to do New York first." They launched in March 2016 in New York and also added Boston and San Francisco. MealPal touts that the monthly membership breaks down to paying about $6 per meal, excluding beverages.
The service also launches in Washington, D.C. today. ClassPass allows fitness buffs to select from various spin and yoga studios, giving users choice and ways to keep their workouts fresh. Studio owners hoped the additional exposure would entice customers to eventually buy memberships at their establishments. That's the same principle behind MealPal, as every morning members select from a daily offering from a participating restaurant. Bowls are especially popular, Biggins said. Customers then pickup their food at a specified time window.
Some users may not like being locked into a lunch selection that early in the morning. Biggins says restaurant owners have a way to maximize business and have embraced the serve. However, at least one owner in New York criticized MealPass, saying that it didn't work for his restaurant.
Still, Biggins says they will slowly expand the restaurant roster. There is not much geographic diversity, as the company focuses on downtown and The Loop. They typically added restaurants every few weeks, Biggins said.
The new name reflects added features, including a swiping "Tinder for food" platform. The app will store user choices and be able to suggest restaurants based on past meals. That kind of user data could also have other lucrative users. Biggins touted this as artificial intelligence.
While ClassPass provides value for the health-conscious, Biggins—who is no longer affiliated—says they aren't encouraging that much synergy. More decadent and caloric choices, like pizza, are available. The following restaurants appear on the roster:
- Peach and Green
- Wow Bao
- Good Stuff Eatery
- Early Society
- The Protein Bar
- Be Leaf
- Just Salad
- The Fat Shallot
- Asada Mexican Grill