I’m the dinner guest from hell — someone with more food allergies and dietary restrictions than many hostesses will encounter in a lifetime. It’s nearly as hard to arrange a business luncheon or evening out — there are just so many places that I can’t risk eating.
Searching for a restaurant is nearly impossible for me — I feel like the most discriminated-against minority in world when I’m trying to find a restaurant in a new place. Even if the restaurant publishes an online menu, the ingredients are seldom (almost never) published. So I have to call (very inefficient), or pay them a visit and talk to someone who actually understands food allergies. Even then, my chances of getting a meal that won’t require the use of an epi pen aren’t always good.
Finally, I see a glimmer of hope ahead, in a start-up company called Nommunity, part of the Tech Wildcatters class of 2012. (I volunteer as a mentor at Tech Wildcatters, a local incubator for innovative companies.) My specific problem (food allergies) isn’t in the current version of a new mobile and web app — but may become part of the roadmap if the launch is as successful as I think it will be.
Nommunity caters to the growing numbers of Americans like me who have special dietary needs or restrictions. Nommunity’s first offering is a national restaurant finder, now in closed beta as a mobile and web application.
Users will be able to locate restaurants serving dishes that fit their dietary need or preference as well as read and share valuable content within the community. Currently, Nommunity serves vegetarians, vegans, and those who eat kosher, organic, or gluten-free. Click here for an invitation to participate in the beta, as well as early access to the product.
Co-founders JJ Koch and Stephen Liu were having a hard time finding food that would satisfy their dietary needs. “I’d use a search engine, and find restaurants that had one vegetarian dish, or claimed to offer gluten-free meals that weren’t. We realized that it wasn’t a technology problem, it was simply the lack of an easy way for members of specific communities to share meaningful data that counteracted misunderstanding and misinformation in the food industry,” Koch says.
A major difference between Nommunity and existing search results is that users help to create and maintain their own community, and can decide which restaurants are relevant to their food tribe. Search results are curated by community members, who can vote a restaurant out of the service if it fails to deliver on its promise to provide dishes that meet the needs of the community.
Food-lovers with dietary restrictions can now use the Nommunity app to get directions, make reservations, and order food online. The Nommunity database will grow as members suggest new restaurants and dishes. The site also includes blogs, recipes, and tips, and is now accepting guest posts related to each of the communities.
Nommunity (pronounced /nom-myoo-ni-tee/) takes its name from the catch phrase om nom nom (the sound of a satisfied eater), and the Latin commūnitās.