MealPass Review - A One Week Trial

If you haven’t heard about MealPass yet, check this out. From the founders of the popular ClassPass fitness network, MealPass is a subscription meal service designed for people who work and eat lunch in Boston. For $99 a month MealPass offers lunch every weekday from a choice of over 50 restaurants in the Financial District, Downtown and as of March 14th, in Back Bay.

With the new options in Back Bay, where Breakaway is located, I began to seriously consider signing up. Still, I had a few reservations. Would there be enough variety with each restaurant only offering a single choice each day? Would I have the ability to customize the meals at all? The MealPass website doesn’t offer up any of this information without creating (and paying for) an account, which initially gave me pause.

Then last month my colleague Diana, a MealPass subscriber and extremely vocal advocate, hooked me up with a free week trial and I jumped at the chance to try it risk-free. Here’s how it went.

MealPass Review

Quick-hit thoughts about MealPass:

Good Stuff

  • $5/day for lunch is tough to beat.
  • Skip the line when you pick up your food.
  • Easy three-click ordering process.
  • No need for payment info when reserving or picking up.

Could Be Better

  • Can’t customize meals to remove ingredients based on allergies or preferences.
  • Portion sizes on the small side.
  • Slim selection of restaurants in my area.

Doing The Math

At $99 a month MealPass is attractive, to say the least. Reducing the potential cost of lunch to less than $5 a day – provided that there are 20 weekdays in the average month – is really tough to beat. Digging through my AMEX transaction history revealed that my daily lunch spend is $11.12, about 11% higher than I would have guessed.

That adds up to $222.40 a month, or more than double the cost of MealPass. Switching to MealPass for lunch 20 days a month puts an extra $1300+ in my pocket over the course of a year. Nice.

Using MealPass

After creating an account I was taken to the member area of the MealPass website. Every evening at 7:00pm the space is updated with lunch choices for the following day, and members have until 9:30am to choose a restaurant, a meal and a pickup time.


A preview of the meal selection screen and location filter.

From here I had the ability to sort by area, enter my location to search my proximity, or browse the map visually. These filters are really convenient when the weather is garbage or I only have a few minutes to grab lunch and it can be difficult to get to restaurants farther from the office.

Boston Restaurants

When MealPass launched in Boston the restaurants were limited to Downtown Crossing and the Financial District; too far from the Breakaway office in Back Bay for a quick lunch run. At the time of writing there are 20 full-time restaurants in Back Bay, including:

Samurai Express Il Mondo Pizzeria
Café Med Dumpling Palace
Back Bay Sandwich Chutney’s
Snappy Sushi Boston Indian Kitchen
Thai Basil Chef Chang’s
Boloco Bebe’s Deli
Freshii Dosa Factory
Typhoon Asian Bistro McGreevy’s Saloon
Umai Kashmir Restaurant
Fruitata Wabora

The roster is currently at just 20 restaurants, though it’s pretty safe to bet that the list will continue to grow as the program gains popularity.

Rather than selecting a restaurant and deciding what to eat based on the menu I found myself picking menu items first, a unique twist on my normal lunch routine. This new approach to making lunch decisions had me going back and forth more than I would have liked. By the third and fourth day I adjusted to the new decision-making process, and as the list of restaurants and meal choices expands it will be less of an issue.

The Lunch Choices

Each restaurant offers up a single menu item to choose from on a given weekday, and I found it rare that the a restaurant offered the same meal more than once a week. Although that translates to 20 different choices each day towards the end of the trial I had trouble finding options that I was truly “in the mood” for.

mealpass high quality food imagery

High quality food imagery makes for a hunger-inducing selection process.

Fortunately for those who, like me, enjoy a healthier lunch, the selection isn’t loaded with cheeseburgers, pizza, heavy burritos or an excess of fried foods. While those items are available, there are plenty of options less likely to contribute to a post-lunch food coma, a premature heart attack or an expanded waistline. The meal selection is solid, but there is no opportunity for even the slightest modification to a meal. That represents a problem for me…

Now is probably a good time to explain that I hate raw tomatoes. No, hate isn’t strong enough. I absolutely loathe raw tomatoes. Cooked, ketchuped, sauced, fried, sautéed, grilled, roasted, sun-dried or broiled? Great. Raw? Hell no. Those things are capable of ruining my week. My hatred for raw tomatoes might be extreme, but consider people who have allergies, are lactose intolerant, or hate cilantro. What are they to do? The ability to make a minor modification would be a benefit to customers and probably wouldn’t be much trouble for the restaurants. Not to mention that it would make the platform more attractive to picky eaters.

With any meal containing raw tomatoes eliminated, the number of choices is reduced significantly. This is what I ate:

  • Day 1 – California Roll & Miso Soup from Snappy Sushi
  • Day 2 – Chicken and Rice from The Chicken & Rice Guys
  • Day 3 – Tuna Roll and Cucumber Roll from Snappy Sushi
  • Day 4 – Thai Fried Rice and Chicken from Chili Duck Thai
  • Day 5 – Buffalo Chicken Burrito from Boloco

I was pleased with the selection and quality of the meals I enjoyed, but in some cases the portion size left something to be desired. On three of five days the meals were on the smaller side and people who prefer a large lunch might have been disappointed by the offerings.

For the most part the pictures representing the meals on the reservation page were right on; an accurate representation of the serving and portion. In my opinion this is a really underrated benefit because high-quality imagery allows for a true understanding of the meal you will receive. Great job by the MealPass team on this one.

The Reservation Process

Reserving lunch is an awesomely simple process. Once you’ve logged in and picked a meal, simply hover to select it, choose your pickup time and click reserve. That’s it. Incredibly easy, and you get a reassuring confirmation message at the top of the screen and in your email inbox.

I have to be honest, receiving a confirmation message for my order without entering payment information was odd the first two times. The speed is really growing on me, though, and certainly makes the reservation process painless.

mealpass reservation process and sold out screenshot

Left: Reserving a meal. Right: A sold out option.

One thing that’s important to note is that restaurants can set a limit to the number of meals they are willing to fulfill each day. Popular meals can “sell out” so I recommend making lunch selections close to the 7:00pm release time each evening to increase the odds of locking in your first choice.

The Pickup Process

Just like the reservation process, pickup is a total breeze. One of my favorite benefits of MealPass is that there is no waiting in line. Upon arrival at the restaurant I was able to walk to the front of the queue, inform the host or cashier that I was “making a MealPass pickup for Mathew Bernstein” and immediately be on my way. No need to fumble with cash or sign a credit card receipt. In-and-out in less than a minute. Awesome.

Each day I arrived at the start of my arranged pickup time and my food was ready. I was concerned that my food might be cold or stale if it were prepared much earlier in the day, as the restaurant likely received the order around the 9:30am cutoff time that morning. Fortunately this was not the case and every meal tasted fresh.

MealPass Review Summary

At the end of my free trial I had a decision to make.

On one hand, the seamless transaction experience, speedy pickup process and access to quality, healthy meals from great restaurants around Bay Bay are really attractive options. Not to mention, at just $99, even if I only use MealPass 10-11 times a month I would be saving money compared to my normal monthly lunch expenditure.

At the same time, the variety of restaurants and meal choices is just not quite where they need to be yet. Towards the end of my trial period I found myself having trouble selecting options that I was interested in, which is not something I want to worry about at lunchtime.

While I am not ready to subscribe just yet, you can bet that I will be carefully watching MealPass’ twitter for indications that their Back Bay restaurant selection has expanded.

MealPass is a great platform that is, really, still in its infancy. Just months into live operations they are providing a unique, useful, affordable service and I am confident the minor quirks of the platform will be worked out in future updates.

Are you using MealPass, or do you have questions about the platform? Hit me up on Twitter @MathewBernstein and let me know what you think.