A Warwickshire mum has launched a website to help those with food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease find suitable dining out venues wherever they live in the UK.
The idea for the website Allergy Companions was born following an unpleasant experience Liljia Polo-Richards and her husband, James, had while on holiday in Norfolk in May with their son, Francesco, who was diagnosed with a severe nut allergy when he was 13-months-old.
Liljia decided to turn the negative experience into a positive by creating a platform for people to share their reviews and find suitable venues that truly care about serving people with food allergies.
She contacted the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub and received start-up support and guidance before launching a one-stop website for people to find information on businesses which they can trust.
Liljia, who lives in Leamington, explained: “Our son is four in November and over the last two-and-a-half years we have found eating out challenging.
“When we went to Norfolk, we told the restaurant at the booking point that our son had an allergy, I called them the day before and on the day, and I reminded them about it before our food arrived.
“Our dish arrived covered in nuts and when I mentioned it and asked the waiter to take it away, they didn’t deal with it very well.
“When our son went to bed that night, my husband and I decided to do something positive because we felt we couldn’t be the first family this had happened to and there needed to be a better resource available for others who were dealing with food allergies.
“We came up with the idea of having a platform to share information with recommendations so that no matter where you travelled across the UK, you could hopefully find a place to eat with family, friends or colleagues if you suffer with food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease. We’ve been blown away by the response so far as it’s great to read the feedback from people who say they have tried new places based on recommendations from others.
“Eating out with family, friends, colleagues or clients is such a natural thing to do and we don’t feel people should be excluded.”
Food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease are on the rise and it estimated that they effect between two and three million people in the UK.
“I have never run my own business so I contacted the Growth Hub and they helped to structure my ideas and write a business plan,” Liljia added.
“It has been really useful to have someone to bounce ideas off, being pointed in the direction of certain information to help me grow further. Their help has been invaluable.”
Laura Delahunty, a business navigator at CWLEP Growth Hub, said Liljia wanted Allergy Companions to make eating out with allergies easier and give the community a voice.
“Liljia’s wants Allergy Companions to bring the allergy community and businesses together so they can work towards improving the lives of those living with food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease.
“I have been working with Liljia since the summer and we have had many discussions about the business and her ideas and I have given her information and advice throughout, acting as a sounding board for support.
“It is fantastic that her website has been launched and the business is starting to grow.
“We have also provided advice about the support that exists for SMEs like Allergy Companions which will hopefully be able to be explored at a later date.”