Patriot Ledger entrepreneur column highlights AllergyEats and its founder
SOUTH SHORE ENTREPRENEUR: Paul Antico starts guide to allergy-friendly eateries
By Ashlee Fairey
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Sep 28, 2010 @ 02:19 AM
Last update Sep 28, 2010 @ 03:30 AM
COHASSET — PAUL ANTICO
The Bertucci’s restaurant in Hingham had a 90-minute wait one Friday night, and Paul Antico and his two sons were hungry.
They returned to their car. But all their go-to restaurants also had a long wait, and they wound up driving for two hours before finding a semi-satisfactory place.
It isn’t easy for Antico and his family to find a restaurant. His son Tucker, 13, is allergic to tree nuts, and his younger brother Keegan, 8, is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, sesame and tree nuts.
During that frustrating hunt for dinner back in 2006, Antico kept thinking, “God, I wish there was a darn guide,” he said.
So he made one himself. In February, the Cohasset resident launched AllergyEats, an online guide to allergy-friendly restaurants.
He first began working on the site in late 2008, when he left his job as a portfolio manager at Fidelity. After 17 years with the Boston-based financial firm, Antico was burned out and eager to start something new.
The website, which took 20 months to develop, lists virtually every restaurant in the country – about 600,000 – and invites users to rate how they accommodated diners with food allergies.
AllergyEats visitors can browse by restaurant name, allergy or location, and they can see how the eateries catered to other users’ allergies, indicated by both a five-star rating and a comments section.
Though Antico declined to share exact figures, he said AllergyEats has thousands of rated restaurants – including about 350 in the Boston area – and thousands of members. Membership to the site is free.
The site has seen significant growth recently: In August, membership increased by nearly 70 percent from July, Antico said, while the site’s number of Facebook fans doubled to more than 1,200.
“I’m not trying to generate any revenues yet, because to me, it’s all about getting people to use it, get people to like it, get people to give me feedback,” Antico said.
Antico is treating the website as his full-time job and is considering several ways to generate income down the line. They include: charging restaurants a small fee to be able to respond to user comments and to search their ratings for the chain and its individual locations. He will also offer advertising space.
Antico is the sole employee but has outsourced Web development and marketing, and had to purchase the database of national restaurants.
“You have to spend money to make money,” he said.
He hopes that AllergyEats will eventually provide a return on his investment. If the site isn’t profitable but is a popular success, however, that’s fine by him. “This is something I really care about,” he said.
Paul Antico may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.allergyeats.com.
Ashlee Fairey may be reached at email@example.com.