Dining

MealPass the Test

The pros and cons of ordering lunch through MealPass
Photo: Courtesy of MealPass
MealPass Ordering Service in New York City

The logical next step after founding a boutique fitness system with a cult following: Take the system and apply it to snacks.

ClassPass cofounder Mary Biggins is back in the tech game with MealPass, a service that allows people to prepay some amount of dollars per month in order to be supplied lunch every weekday. Each participating restaurant offers one meal a day, and options can range from a double-slice pizza special to a massaged kale salad. Additional restaurants are added every week, all presented in an endless scroll (our generation's favorite two words) to show your options.

The monthly price started as $99 when the company first launched but now is up to $119—or you could do alternative $79 or $19 deals. If you try to cancel your membership, it'll try to grab you back with the latter, cheaper options, just like ClassPass does. I know this because even when I decided doing mild calisthenics in my own home was much cheaper than spending $100-plus on trying new things, I stayed when offered the five-classes-for-$75 deal.

Before letting cost be the end-all factor for you, remember don't kill the messenger: MealPass is just a way to get the food to you. It's trying to help the restaurants predict how much food they'll need on hand, and the business model, compared to other delivery services, actually does right by the restaurants. But does it do right by your lunch? Here's the breakdown.

The Pluses
① Adventure: I tried places I hadn't before, like The Organic Grill in the East Village, where I fell deeply in love with my sandwich on two separate occasions. They were both filled with a rainbow of vegetables—one with sweet potato mash, the other with beet hummus—and I solemnly swear that I will meet them again. There was also adventure in the physical sense: The restaurants featured are only above Union Square and the service is pickup only, so I had a minor trek from Soho. But I'm a proud Citi Bike user and am on a mission to become a "cyclist," so I was able to put a positive spin on it.

② Being Sneaky: One awesome side effect is being able to order items that would otherwise be more expensive, like a cold-pressed juice from Liquiteria or David Chang's hot-topic fried chicken sandwich.

③ Convenience: Just like with any service that's enabled by the magical 21st century, the approximate seven minutes you'd spend making lunch in the morning is saved by the click of a button.

 

Pretty (and delicious) things: this @organicgrill sandwich � aka #rainbowfood I can support

A photo posted by areisner (@areisner) on Apr 27, 2016 at 11:13am PDT


The Minuses

① Location: If you're where the restaurants are, that's great. I think this service makes 100 percent sense for you. But despite the thrills and adrenaline rush of being constantly near death biking in NYC, the whole excursion—even to the closest options—generally took 40 minutes. Admittedly, there was a day when I was too swamped at work to spare the time and let my order go un-picked up. I'll never know what the acai bowl from Pure Green near NYU tastes like, and I'm still carrying the slight guilt of possible food waste.

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② Cost: It may be less than 10 dollars a meal, and, yes, it's cheaper than ordering a salad separately every single day unless you're the type to get straight-up lettuce with an occasional cucumber splurge. But I can buy a giant bag of kale and handful of sweet potatoes before coming to even half that amount. As a disclaimer, I'm historically not one to order takeout or delivery, but I went into this with an objective mindset.

③ Time Window: You have from 7 p.m. the night before until 9:30 a.m. the next day to select your meal choice. Though I live my life daydreaming about my next meal, I felt stressed and sweaty when having to think about lunch more than 12 hours out, or setting yet another iCal reminder right next to "think about buying shampoo."

So should you try it? If you work nearby and would otherwise order lunch, then, yes, go wild. But make sure you're positive—if you change your mind and cancel, you'll be charged a substantial fee.

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