A Leamington mum has launched a website to help those with food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease find suitable places to eat out wherever they live in the UK.
Liljia Polo-Richards had the idea for allergycompanions.com after he three-year-old son Francesco, who has a severe nut allergy, was served a dish covered in nuts while at a restaurant on holiday in Norfolk.
Liljia, who had warned the restaurant about Francesco's dietary requirements prior to eating there with her family, decided to turn the negative experience into a positive by creating the 'one-stop' website for people to find information on businesses which they can trust.
Liljia said: “Our son is four soon and over the last two-and-a-half years we have found eating out challenging.
"In Norfolk we had 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 Francesco 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.”
With no experience of running her own business before launching the website, Liljia contacted the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub and received start-up support and guidance.
She said: "They helped me to structure my ideas and write a business plan.
"“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, added: "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."
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.