Lunch start-up MealPass is now MealPal — and it’s added a "Tinder for food" to help users decide what to eat for lunch. The company, which allows people to pre-pay for a set number of lunches each month, debuted in New York in March and now has more than 600 restaurants serving preset meals every weekday.
Co-founder Mary Biggins, who’s also a co-founder of fitness start-up ClassPass, says they decided to change the name partly because of a new feature they added on the app, a "pal" who helps members choose where to eat. "As we add more and more restaurants, it gets harder and harder to pick what you want for lunch," she says. "Pal is our robot who will help you find your lunch."
The "Tinder for food" portion of the app helps "Pal" narrow meal choices by asking members to tell it what ingredients they like. Users can swipe up to 100 ingredients that they love or hate, right for "love it" and left for "hate it." The app then recommends meals from participating restaurants based on the choices.
Food Tinder will theoretically help restaurants, too, she adds. Once people start swiping, MealPal can tell restaurants which ingredients will sell better for their neighborhood and recommending menu changes.
People will still have a way to see all the meal options — even the ones that "Pal" isn’t recommending — but the idea is that food Tinder will help expose people to meals that they wouldn’t necessarily have picked out themselves, Biggins says. "If you start to really trust Pal, you’ll start to get dishes you might not have tried before, but you actually really like," she says.
Otherwise, the new name doesn’t represent a dramatic change in the company itself. People still pay up to $119 per month for unlimited weekday meals, or a lower fee for fewer meals. Initial responses from restaurateurs and diners was mostly positive, although at least one high profile restaurant has since left. But it’s been enough for the company to expand. As of Monday, it’s also in Chicago and DC.