Editor’s note: In September 2016, MealPass rebranded itself as MealPal. We’ve updated the company name in the story to reflect the rebranding.
Katie Ghelli and Mary Biggins are changing the way Brickell lunches. The duo moved from New York to Miami to launch MealPal, which is kind of like a college meal plan.
For $99 a month, members receive lunch every weekday from a partnering restaurant. Ghelli and Biggins think it’s a win-win — restaurants get more customers and the people get to experience new restaurants every day. If used for every lunch, it works out to just $5 a meal.
Since launching in Miami, the MealPal team has grown from 2 to 10 people, and has roughly 50 partnering restaurants. The company also recently expanded to a neighborhood in Boston, which, like Brickell, is the dense and busy financial district.
We spoke with Ghelli to learn why they decided to move from New York to launch their new business in Miami, and where they hope it goes from here.
How did you decide to start MealPal?
My cofounder Mary Biggins and I met on the first day of college. In fact we were college roommates at Colby College in Maine many years ago. While in school, before we went to the dining hall, we would check online at all of the different menus and try to decide where to eat. We thought it was so efficient.
As we got older, we started to think about how getting lunch was always such a hassle — there were too many options, and we’d have to wait in a long line. So we figured there must be a better way, order in advance, skip the line, and just make the whole process more efficient.
What experiences do you have in this line of work?
Mary started Class Pass, which is a similar model to MealPal in that for a monthly subscription, you can attend partnering exercise classes all around the city. I was working at ZocDoc, which helps people book doctor’s appointments online.
We both knew we wanted to start something else. Mary and I have stayed friends throughout the years and for 15 years now we’ve been supporting each other through our careers. So when we thought about who we wanted to work with, we knew we would work very well together.
Why did you move from New York to start MealPal in Miami?
There are lots of great things about Miami. For one, Mary and I never lived anywhere warm. We think Brickell, in particular, is a place to start and test out a new idea. There are a lot of people who work in Brickell, and lots of restaurants. This is the ideal situation, a high density of people living, working and eating in a space, as well as places you can easily walk to.
Moving to Miami was exciting for both of us. We were ready to start something new. When we first got here, we spent a lot of time in Brickell, getting to know the restaurants, testing them out. We found an office space pretty quickly — we’re lucky to work at Building.co, which is a great coworking space, so being able to find and work with a new tech community was exciting.
As the company expands, do you plan to stay in Miami?
Well, we just launched our second in our second city, in Boston. The neighborhood we picked is similar to Brickell. It’s busy, near downtown, in the financial district.
As we expand, Miami is going to be the hub of MealPal. We’ll be keeping our building and team here and as we expand we’ll stay at our office in Miami. Making something successful in Miami was important for both of us. We’ve both moved here and have become part of the community.
I think there’s a great new tech scene starting to thrive, and it feels like a community to me. I didn’t think it would because Miami is such a big city, but I’ve been running into the same people on the streets, walking around and in coffee shops.