Lunch time in London usually involves paying £8 for the privilege of a soggy wrap. If you manage to avoid the temptation of a Boots meal deal, that is.

MealPal is a new service that’s aiming to make lunch times both more enjoyable and affordable. 

I was lucky enough to bag a free trial recently, so what’s a girl to do other than write a review about it? Here’s what I thought of the whole process.  

What does MealPlan offer?

Originally launching in New York City, MealPlan is a lunch subscription service that lets you reserve food at a number of participating restaurants. It offers two plans – both of which last for 30 days – £4.79 per meal for 12 or £4.39 per meal for 20.

Either way, it guarantees you will pay less than a fiver each time, along with the promise of your lunch being ready and waiting so you don’t have to queue.

Planning ahead

You can use the service through a dedicated app or via the main website.

Once you’ve signed up, you will be instructed to reserve your meal between 5pm and 9:30am for the next day. If you miss this time slot, you’ll have to wait until the ‘kitchen’ is open again the following evening. This could prove mildly annoying for some, but I found it quite enjoyable to plan ahead.

It’s also handy if you're someone who finds yourself stuck in a food rut. The participating restaurants are listed in a visually-pleasing map format, which you can then filter by specific location or type of food. This means you might come across places you've never tried before - plus it's actually quite fun to browse and see what everyone's dish of the day will be.

It's important to stress that there is only one choice of meal from each restaurant. However, this meal changes on a daily basis, meaning that you still get a decent amount of variety over the course of a week. It also helps facilitate the service in the first place, as it means restaurants can produce a higher volume of meals in a shorter time frame when there is no customisation involved.

Skipping the queue (and deliberation)

Instead of paying more for delivery, MealPal is hoping that consumers will be drawn in by the prospect of paying less to pick up in person – getting one over on the likes of Deliveroo and UberEats. Unsurprisingly, it heavily leans on the fact that consumers can skip the queue when they arrive.

This is one area I was a little dubious about. It’s London after all – surely those already queuing will be less than pleased about people jumping ahead?

Having said that, my experiences have so far been pretty seamless. More often than not, I have spotted other MealPal members politely enquiring at the side of counters and merely followed suit. If the company grows in popularity, however, one problem could be restaurants keeping on top of this demand at the same time as satisfying regular customers. 

Alongside the no-queue element, if you’re an indecisive sort, you might also enjoy the fact that you don’t have to make a decision on the spot. What's more, it means that you can actually spend more of your lunch break enjoying it rather than waiting around.

Is it worth it?

I generally found there was no skimping on portion-size with MealPal, meaning you'd definitely be paying more if you ordered as a regular customer. You can also leave feedback on factors such as size and speed after each meal, and the app will learn your preferences over time in order to offer suggestions you might like.

Overall, there’s no denying that it’s a viable way to save money for those who buy their lunch every day. Of course, success also depends on whether or not you’re guaranteed to use up all your meals within the time frame.

This might put off customers from keeping subscriptions for the long-term, with a lack of freedom and repetitive menus being potential bugbears. Also keep in mind that, although most participating restaurants are littered in the City, Soho and Canary Wharf, there are more in some areas than others.

Will I be signing up? I could be persuaded to give it a proper go in future, if cancelling membership is hassle-free. It beats going to Pret seven days a week anyway. 

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 27 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

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Adam Myers, Fell Dev Manager at RSA

The queue jumping aspect of this will cause them no end of pain if this takes off. Starbucks in NY introduced a similar app (have a a look at the NY Times for the case study) and the perceived queue jumping caused a customer meltdown. The end result was Starbucks having to take on loads more people and costing them a fortune in vouchers etc.

Now given the small scale of this it is unlikely to happen soon, but it is something places need to be aware of.

12 months ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

I checked out the MealPal website and (a) all the London Restaurants shown are north of the river (our office is south) and (b) more importantly I can't see any way to filter restaurants by food type - why not allow that so I can check whether they have Thai and Vietnamese restaurants before I signup? Shame, because it seems like a good idea.
https://www.mealpal.com/

12 months ago

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