Being in the F&B business is not just about cooking good food that customers sit down to enjoy anymore.
These days, the importance of providing convenience in the way customers are served has taken more prevalence.
That's why we've seen food delivery and meal subscription services like GrabFood, Plum and nomnomby sprout up into the scene to make mealtimes easier for Singaporeans, and especially busy working individuals.
While there's already a substantial variety of options like the above mentioned ones available, another joins today, and it may stand a good chance at winning over market share with its strong background.
MealPal, a meal subscription service from the US, has just announced its launch in Singapore, which is also its first foray into Asia.MealPal founders Mary Biggins and Katie Ghelli Photo: MealPal
Founded in 2016 by Mary Biggins and Katie Ghelli, MealPal currently serves 16 cities across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and France.
They have since facilitated over 8 million reservations with 3,000 restaurants.
In Singapore, its 17th market, MealPal will work with over 250 eateries, including Teppei Syokudo, Tuk Tuk Cha, Grain Traders, Folks Collective, and hawkers from Amoy Street Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre and Lau Pa Sat.
Subscribe To 12 Meals A Month At $7.99 Each
How MealPal works is that customers will pay a monthly fee of $95.88 to receive 12 restaurant meals, bringing the cost per meal to $7.99.
For an additional $2, they'll get two more hawker meals on top of that.
According to MealPal's General Manager of International Markets, Paul Clifford, a customer would be spending about 40 per cent less than if they dined in the restaurant.Photo: MealPal
Each of their F&B partners will only offer one menu item, and customers will choose from the selection of restaurants and place their orders between 5pm and 10am.
They will then pick up the meal from the restaurant themselves at lunch or dinner time, as MealPal does not provide delivery, which in turn saves costs for the customer.
"MealPal targets budget-conscious, time-strapped professionals and executives looking for access to a wide variety of convenient, affordable and delicious meals near where they work," says Clifford.
The service launches in four business hubs, Buona Vista, Novena, Orchard and the CBD.Photo: MealPal
Localising A US Service For Singapore
Clifford shared that this is the first time MealPal is introducing hawker fare onto their platform.
That's one of the ways in which the company has worked to localise its services and operations.
They have included filters on their platform, like the halal option, to cater to users in Singapore.
Recognising that lunch time is a social affair here, the company has also launched WorkPals together with the subscription service, allowing colleagues to see each others' orders and coordinate their meals and pick-up times.
And apart from lunch, they're also beginning to provide dinner service right from the moment they enter Singapore, with our long working hours in mind.
Market research led the MealPal team to introduce QR code scanning when customers pick up their food, saying that the use of QR codes is more prevalent in Singapore than any of their other markets.
"We have also adapted our communication methods for the hawker aunties and uncles in Singapore by using SMS as a means to send the bulk orders to hawkers rather than through email," Clifford says.
"We realised, through our interactions, that local hawkers do not typically have emails, leading us to explore the option of SMS-based communications."
MealPal has recruited a local team to handle operations in Singapore, including Partnership and Community Associate Joanne Lu, formerly from Flashmeal, and Country Manager Reece Wee, formerly from HonestBee.
Good For Both Customers And Partners
Boasting many benefits for customers, MealPal says it helps them "save time by scheduling meal pick-ups and [have] the ability to skip the queue".
They believe getting customers to pick up their own meal is a good alternative to staying in front of their computers without leaving the office all day, and that it will also let them "discover great new eateries and meal options".
For their partners, MealPal says they reduce operational burdens by getting each partner to only provide one menu item a day.
"By making 100 over of the same meal at once each day takes significantly less time and labour, enabling MealPal to buy these meals from the restaurant at a discount and then to pass some of those savings on to the consumer," says Clifford.
Additionally, since users will be more willing to explore new restaurants at lowered prices, MealPal helps their partners win over new customers too.
According to Clifford, the meal subscription model can help to reduce food wastage, a problem that is rife in Singapore.
He says that with data analytics, MealPal will help businesses better predict and manage the amount of ingredients needed for a day.
CBD Customers Spoilt For Choice
Recently, we wrote about a Singapore start-up, nomnomby, which also offers monthly meal subscriptions that customers pick up themselves.
Operating in the CBD since January 2018, nomnomby may have been here earlier, but MealPal's 2 years worth of experience and networks seems to give it a higher edge.
Aside from the very similar model and price points (nomnomby's subscriptions cost between $7.99 to $8.99 per meal), nomnomby started out smaller, providing only lunch in the CBD area first, as they continue to work towards including dinner and bringing the service islandwide.nomnomby’s subscription plans Photo: Nomnomby
Currently, working individuals in the CBD are pretty spoilt for choice, with many of these meal subscription or delivery companies vying to serve their needs.
It still remains to be seen which of these platforms will be most popular with CBD workers, whether they find value in the services, or if they still prefer simply going out to eat the old-fashioned way.
This article was first published in Vulcan Post.