Lunch start-up MealPass is starting to offer cheaper monthly plans with a fewer number of set meals — mostly to people who try to cancel their memberships. The start-up, which launched in NYC last month, costs $119-per-month in exchange for an unlimited number of weekday meals at participating restaurants. But people who try to leave MealPass have been offered two alternate plans: $79 for 12 meals or $19 for three. They're also informed that if they cancel, they can only reinstate their membership for a $79 fee, about two-thirds of the cost of a monthly membership.
Founder Mary Biggins says offering parting members other options is their way of testing out different meal plans. In addition to offering it to people looking to cancel, they give it to people who ask for them, often folks who have heard about the alternatives from friends, she says. "We weren't really sure if people would really want them or not," Biggins says. But most people end up not canceling their memberships in favor of the alternate plans, she says, with the 12 meal plan being the most popular. She declined to say how many people have the cheaper plans. As a result, MealPass will launch the options to everybody in the next few weeks, she says.
She admits that the fee to reinstate membership is high, but it's on purpose. MealPass works best if they control supply and demand between the restaurants and the members, which requires them to manage the number of users as closely as possible, she says. They've only been allowing a certain number of new members each day, to coincide with the approximately 20 restaurants they add each week. "It's a two sided marketplace," Biggins says. "Other start-ups haven’t been great at working with restaurants. We want to be able to deliver them the demand that they want." Limiting the cancellations to people who really want out helps restaurants predict how much food to make, she says.
But even people who like MealPass so far balked at the high cost to resubscribe. "What if I had a month-long trip?" member Aryan Jabbari says. "I would obviously not return to the service due to the huge cancellation fee." MealPass saves him money and offers a nice variety of options, but he doesn't like the restricting set-up, he says. "I love MealPass but also like being financially responsible and re-thinking my monetary decisions each month (instead of going on auto-pilot)," he says.
Biggins insists that most people have not had negative reactions to customer service and the re-subscription fee. People who want to use MealPass can find a way to do it that's right for them, and they can still cancel if they want to cancel, she says. "People will really think about — am I just canceling for a week or a month or I’m canceling because I don't actually want to use this service?" she says. "We're encouraging people to find the balance and understand why they want to cancel their membership."