If you’re been gluten-free long enough, you’ve heard of Jason Elmore. Well, you may not know Jason Elmore by name, but it’s likely you’ve used the app he created.
Elmore created the Find Me Gluten Free app, a free app you can download to your phone to find restaurants with gluten-free offerings near you. You can read reviews, leave reviews and find restaurants you feel confident patronizing.
Elmore says he created the app for a “very selfish reason.” He found out he had celiac disease and realized immediately how difficult it was to eat out with friends or travel. He had a degree in computer science, so he developed the app that would make his life – and lives of the millions people on a gluten-free diet – easier. (Find Me Gluten Free boasts more than three million users!)
I asked Elmore some questions about the app, it’s history, and a few personal questions too. I hope you enjoy getting to know Elmore as much as I did. He is a true influencer in the gluten-free space!
Q: There are several competitor apps on the market that also help people find gluten-free restaurants. What does Find Me Gluten Free do that you think has helped it stand out from the crowd?
I have continued to work on it non-stop since initially creating it. Continually learning what works and doesn’t work for our community has been extremely beneficial. It seems that the teams behind most of the competitors became complacent.
Q: What have been some of your challenges with the business, app, etc.?
1. Getting users to write reviews and share their experiences with others in the community. This is an ongoing challenge.
2. Balancing all the different parts of the business. App development, marketing, sales, management.
3. Getting businesses to realize the value of their listings.
Q: Find Me Gluten Free is dependent on users reviewing restaurants. What are you doing to encourage user reviews?
A: This is one of our next big projects. There are a few things that we’re going to do to try to get users to leave more reviews. Allowing users to easily set reminders to review a restaurant at a later time is one of the big ones.
Q: I try really hard to leave constructive reviews after eating at a restaurant, however, there have been some restaurants that are doing gluten-free all wrong and are worthy of a bad review. Do restaurants ever dispute user reviews? How do you handle that?
A: Yes, they do. We handle it on a case by case basis. Business owners can also respond to reviews to give their story.
Q: How do you think you can make restaurants more aware of the Find Me Gluten Free app and have them take the time to read the reviews and make positive changes?
A: That is very challenging. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ve really figured out an effective way to do this other than for businesses hopefully to witness what happens when their competitors do gluten-free correctly.
Q: I’ve been following the Find Me Gluten Free story – from an early investment from billionaire Mark Cuban to being acquired by The Gluten Free Marketing Group. How did both of those events in Find Me Gluten Free’s history transpire?
A: Mark Cuban reached out to us on behalf of a pizza chain that he used to own called Naked Pizza. He wanted to advertise on FMGF. We took the opportunity to throw out an investment offer as well. [Years’s later] the Gluten Free Media Group (GFMG) was putting on its annual Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo in Chicago and we were attending as an exhibitor. My business partner and I ended up being at an industry dinner with the founder of the expo, Jennifer Cafferty. We got to talking and less than a couple months later, the deal was done.
Q: Is Mark Cuban still invested in the business?
A: He exited when we were acquired by GFMG.
Q: What does the future hold for Find Me Gluten Free?
A: We just released a new premium version for iOS (Android coming in the next couple months). Removal of in-app ads and an easy one-top “Most Celiac Friendly” option are among the highlights of the premium version. We are dedicated to continue improving FMGF in every way.
Q: On a personal level, what the top challenges you face as someone living with celiac disease?
A: Going with the flow food-wise is still difficult many times. If the majority of a group wants to go somewhere that isn’t super gluten-free friendly, sometimes you just have to suck it up.
Q: For someone new to celiac, what is your best advice for eating out safely?
A: Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to clarify. If you don’t feel safe, leave.
Q: What questions do you ask waiters and restaurant managers to better understand whether the restaurant is safe for you to eat at?
A: I ask about dedicated fryers, toasters, etc. I let them know that I’m sensitive to cross-contamination and ask them which options they think would be safe for me.
Q: Let’s talk favorites:
Favorite chain restaurant? Pei Wei
Favorite fast casual restaurant? Chipotle
Favorite dish to order? Pad Kee Mao
Q: Where can people find your restaurant reviews on Find Me Gluten Free?
A: Find my reviews here.
Q: Have you ever left a bad review?
A: I believe I’ve left several bad reviews. It’s important to warn people to stay away from places. That being said, I mostly eat at places that are pretty well reviewed, so I don’t have too many terrible experiences.
You can download the app for free in the App Store or Google Play. Visit Find Me Gluten Free online for details.
Interested in learning about other gluten-free influencers? Visit here to see who I’ve featured in the past.