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Illustration of sandwiches being prepared for a box lunch, 1931. Screen print. Photo: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The latest craze among the weekday lunch crowd in San Francisco, among other cities, is an app called MealPal that lets customers grab a meal for about $6, usually at least $2–$3 below the normal cost.

Bottom line: MealPal is far from the first startup to try to improve the lunch experience, from apps like OrderAhead, for pre-ordering meals, or Allset, for skipping the line at restaurants, to various loyalty services for frequent patrons.

  • But according to MealPal co-founder and CEO Mary Biggins, who previously helped start fitness class subscription company ClassPass, her company’s winning combination is that it makes lunch more convenient for customers (they pre-order their meals) and also saves them money.

How it works: Every day, MealPal restaurants select a meal for the app’s customers. More than 90% of those meals are already available on the restaurants’ regular menu, though some do prepare a special portion or item for MealPal users. Customers purchase monthly meal subscription plans, which vary slightly per city, and choose which restaurants to visit each day to get lunch.

  • For restaurants, this is an efficient way to prepare a large number of meals quickly and easily as they receive the day’s orders in the morning, says Biggins.
  • MealPal already has 4,000 restaurants across 16 cities in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and only 7% of restaurants who have tried the service have left, according to Biggins.
  • The company has also been able to keep its marketing spend minimal — more than 80% of its customers heard about the service via a friend or co-worker.

What’s next: New York-based MealPal, which has raised $35 million in funding since its founding in 2016, is quietly working on ways to let entrepreneurs sell lunches via its service without needing all the expensive trappings of a conventional restaurant, like a storefront. Biggins wouldn’t share more details about how that would work but did say that meals will be for pick up, not delivery.

Go deeper

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."