Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mobile Applications Bring Local Relevancy to Gluten-Free Restaurants and Drive iPhone Sales?

I have a very close friend of mine that was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. In case you are not aware, Celiac’s is a is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward. Read more at Wikipedia or Celiac.com.

The way to manage Celiac’s is to go on a strick Gluten-Free diet (or the removal of all wheat product from your diet). If my friend eats food with gluten in it, it can put her in bed for a couple of days and can be quite painful. On a personal note, I have also moved to a gluten-free reduced diet with my wife since the fall of last year.

Since my wife and I started our gluten-free reduces lifestyle we find the web is a pretty good place to go for generic information on going gluten-free. One of the challenges is looking for for gluten-free restaurants in cities. Not saying that it does not work but here are my specific issues with using the web.

Try – “gluten-free in XXXXX” where XXXXX is any city. You will usually end up with links to information sources on celiac’s or gluten-free and some resources of Gluten-Free restaurants. Some local businesses who have done a good job of optimizing for this keyword will rise to the top, but in a lot of cases, I notice businesses who say they have gluten-free options which does not mean they have a specific gluten-free menu. As my friend pointed out, it can be extremely frustrating to find details on either gluten-free menu’s or restaurants that cater to people with Celiac’s (which BTW cross-contamination can be a big issue).

So my specific issue with the web:

1) results for a city are usually a hodgepodge or results of “information” sites and some local sites

2) some of the directories have way to many restaurants come up under gluten-free but there is no information as to specific gluten-free menus or how they prevent cross-contamination. Net effect, not really relevant.

3) I need to be in front of computer. This can be a real challenge when you are on the go to have to boot up your computer. My mobile phone is always on me and trying to surf the web on a mobile phone can be challenging at best.

I have recently discovered a really cool application for my iPhone called Celiac Feed. In a nutshell; a user generated application that works based on the location of your iPhone to provide you with a list of restaurants/bakeries in your area that provide gluten-free options. The locations only make the list when one of the users recommends. In the Celiac world I have found out that people love to share information and really support each other. Therefore, the level of trust from these recommendations goes way up.

This application was probably one reason why my friend decided to purchase her iPhone as opposed to a Blackberry. She was on the fence for awhile in terms of which one she would buy. After I showed her this application (and although the information in Canada is limited) and the user base seems pretty small at this point, she decided on the iPhone and has been active on this application every since.

This got me thinking about the major shift that is happening to mobile. Was this one case where the application drove a sale of hardware and how many times a day is this happening now? Not sure if you agree this is a profound as I think it is, but I find it very interesting that a tiny niche application can drive a $500+ sale. For me, this is transformative as more and more devices become ubiquitous, it will be the utility of the device that will drive sales.

For niche local based applications, smart phones are far more superior than trying to search on the web. As an example, this morning at the Bed and Breakfast we are staying in (The Cottage in Qualicum Beach, BC) the owners knew we had people coming with a gluten-free intolerance and actually went out and purchased Gluten-Free bread for us. The bread itself was amazing, it actually tasted like real bread. They bought it at a place called Village Bulk Foods that has in it a Silly-Yak Bakery (a gluten-free kitchen) where they make breads, muffins and more.

So I immediately added this a recommendation to Celiac Feed along with my comments for everybody in this community. This was easier that trying to go to the web to post and is now immediately available to this mobile community.

If you have a gluten-free intolerance and an iPhone, I strongly recommend you download and Celiac Feed application it works well. More people need to use and contribute to it to make it really rock in Canada.

Here are some screenshots of the application from my location in Qualicum Beach, BC.

Celiac Feed Search Results in Qualicum Beach

Results for Village Bulk Foods in Qualicum Beach

Have you tried other gluten-free applications for your smart phone? Please comment below with your experiences in using mobile in a niche way.