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Meet MealPass, the ClassPass of lunching


Photo: MealPass (Sarabeth's)
Photo: MealPass (Sarabeth's)

Let’s be honest: Unless you’re a meal-planning rock star or have a ton of money to burn on takeout, lunchtime at the office can be a real drag.

Enter MealPass, a new service intent on shaking up the sad desk lunch game.

The service, which takes a page from ClassPass (no surprise, considering that it was started by one of the co-founders of the monthly fitness membership program), debuted in Boston and Miami in January, and launches in New York City on Wednesday. For a set rate of $99 per month, users get lunch every weekday from participating restaurants. (Use it every day, and that adds up to just $5 per meal.) And we’re not talking low-level eateries here; there are currently more than 100 restaurants on NYC’s MealPass plan, including healthy favorites like Liquiteria, Mulberry & Vine, Blue Water Grill, and Penelope.

“Lunch is a really tricky meal,” says MealPass and ClassPass co-founder Mary Biggins. “It tends to be more of a maintenance meal and less of a social meal. You need to eat something to keep you energized through the rest of the day, but you probably don’t have a ton of time and you don’t want to spend a ton of money.” It’s that problem that MealPass is trying to fix.

How it works

Each participating restaurant will feature one item daily that’s available to MealPass members—so you’re not just perusing the full menu and ordering at will. Every night at 7 p.m., the restaurants post what’s cooking for the next day, and you have until 9:30 a.m. to place your lunch order.

Also, sorry Maple devotees, but you’ll need to actually leave the office to get lunch: MealPass does not deliver. Instead, you get a 15-minute pickup window. The company’s goal is to saturate entire neighborhoods as they expand the service’s reach—starting with the area from 10th Street to 30th Street, between Third Avenue to Seventh Avenue.

Photo: MealPass
Photo: MealPass (Just Salad)

As for the actual food, MealPass is aiming to cater to everyone from your vegan BFF to your “I’m not that hungry” coworker, with choices you can sort by portion size and cuisine type. And you’ll always get a full ingredient list and an actual photo of the item before you select it—something that was especially important to self-proclaimed picky eater Biggins.

“I hate when I order something and it doesn’t end up being what I expected,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of photo shoots over the past few weeks!”

From the dining hall to fine dining

Though it seems like MealPass is just a natural expansion from the ClassPass model, the idea actually originated years earlier. “I started MealPass with my college roommate, Katie Ghelli [formerly of ZocDoc],” says Biggins. “We went to Colby College, and there were multiple dining halls on campus. So we would look online every day to see the menus at the different dining halls, and would plan where we wanted to go for our meals. MealPass is an extension of that process—which happened over 15 years ago!”

A major MealPass bonus is that, unlike ClassPass, there’s no set limit to how many times users can visit a particular restaurant. (With ClassPass, participants are limited to three visits per studio each month—so once you’ve hit up Flywheel three times, you have to wait until the next month to go again.)

So if Sarabeth’s is your jam, you can go there every day. (And yes, expect to see Sarabeth’s avocado toast on the MealPass plan.)

Let the #happydesklunch commence.

Want some more lunch inspiration? Here are 11 smart, healthy lunch ideas from Well+Good readers.