Now there's another peer-review site for restaurateurs to monitor. This one has a very specific user profile -- the roughly 3 million Americans with food allergies.
Allergyeats.com combines Internet technology with peer-to-peer information to help people know in advance how well (or poorly) a restaurant responds to people with food allergies and other food intolerances, such as Celiac Disease.
"This site is an outgrowth of the difficulty I have in finding a place where my two food-allergic children can eat," said Paul Antico, who spent 20 months researching and designing the site.
The site hasn't gone "viral" yet, but company spokespeople think the growing attention to food allergies coupled with customers' increasing online media savvy will make the site a popular resource soon. And restaurateurs can get in on the conversations in meaningful ways. "They can begin to see what people with food allergies are looking for and what to include in dining
experiences," said spokesman Kenneth Allen.
The Web site lists more than 600,000 restaurants in the United States and is searchable by geographic location, provides maps and driving directions, lists phone numbers and includes menus, industry certifications and other information of interest to food allergy sufferers when available.
Users are encouraged to help the rest of the food allergy community by answering three simple questions about their dining experience for each restaurant on the site. The answers are compiled into an objective "allergy-friendliness rating" that gives users instantaneous at-a-glance information about the "allergy friendliness" of specific restaurants.
Allen said chefs and owner/operators can also send in their special menus and other food allergen factoids for site administrators to post in their "restaurant information" search results. For now, that service is free, but it may be monetized in the future.
There is also a place on the site for written comments, which will be monitored to ensure they contain only food-allergy related opinions.
AllergyEats is endorsed by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) of Washington, the AAFA New England Chapter of Boston and the Gluten Intolerance Group of Auburn, Wash., among others.
While there are other online sites for people with food allergies, none combines the comprehensiveness of the AllergyEats listings with objective ratings and comments area.
"AllergyEats is really a living, breathing organism that will grow and become increasingly useful as people share information on the site. I am happy to offer this to the food allergy community, and I can't wait to see how it develops," Antico said.