Our Mission

Our mission is to make it easier and safer for everyone with Critical Dietary Restrictions (CDRs) such as food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease to enjoy dining out. We do that in two ways:

  1. By providing the most robust and accurate information available anywhere we make it simple to find restaurants and menu items that are appropriate for your CDR.
  2. By working directly with restaurants, we raise awareness and create more options for people with CDRs..

Our History

In 2018 we began working with restaurants to help them better serve guests with CDRs and we still delight every time we hear success stories from restaurants and guests about excellent dining experiences that we have helped create.

In 2019 we began to envisioning an app that would make it easy to find restaurants based on their level of employee education, protocol for avoiding cross-contact, and their fitness for specific dietary restrictions (egg-free, soy-free, etc.). Then, we decided to add dietary restriction menus so that anyone using the app could answer, “What can I actually eat there?”

In 2020 we built and release the first version of our app in a web version and started adding recommendations for pickup & delivery during the COVID pandemic. We’re making changes all the time, so what we have to offer next week will be even better than what you see now.

Our Stories

We are people that have to manage food allergies, food intolerances, and celiac disease in our own lives every day. We delight in shared meals with family and friends, and know the anxiety and difficulty that comes with dining out. We have backgrounds in healthcare, nutrition, food service, entertainment, and more. Here are a few of our own stories.

I was diagnosed with Neurological Lyme Disease and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome many years ago. Due to the challenging nature of IV antibiotics, I went gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, and nightshade-free for a significant amount of time. Now, due to my current conditions, I have severe food intolerances that change and vary in severity quite often.

Given these nuances, I need to know every ingredient in every entree in order to know if it is safe for me to eat. I am so thankful for the information Picknic has provided, which when possible goes beyond the Top 8 allergens. This is particularly helpful when trying to find a restaurant that can help me avoid things like onions and garlic! Anyone else eat low sulfur?!

My experience with food intolerances and looking to heal from the damage of chronic illness led me to pursue a degree in nutrition. Food is medicine, and eating the right food for your body can play a huge piece in your overall health. I am proud to be a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner for those with critical dietary restrictions. I joined the Picknic team to advance the mission of Picknic for those with severe chronic illness. If that is you, I hope you can get to a place where food can be vitality and not anxiety!

Though I was only diagnosed with celiac disease in 2015, I’ve had it since I was a child. The symptoms were clear all the way back to my inability to gain weight and my gastrointestinal issues as a child. I had come to accept my gastrointestinal issues as normal, but in my 30s I began to experience muscular and neurological symptoms.

I had trouble focusing. At times I would just stare into space because my mind wasn’t there. These episodes left me distant from my wife and my kids. How many conversations, memories, and sweet moments have I missed because I just wasn’t there?

I also developed joint and muscle pain that made day to day tasks a source of dread. I can recall watching my mother pick up my son with ease. I actually asked her, “That doesn’t hurt?” I had become so accustomed to pain. I was astonished that someone 26 years my senior could do something I couldn’t do: pick up my child without mental preparation and wincing.

I started experimenting with my diet to try to improve my health, and that is how I discovered I had celiac disease. On day 2 of a ketogenic diet, all of my gastrointestinal symptoms stopped. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I wondered if it might be celiac, something I had heard of but knew nothing about. I requested that my doctor test me for it, and after a positive blood test and endoscopy, the results were clear.

Now that I am gluten-free and am recovering from years of damage from celiac, I have a deep appreciation for how food can literally change our lives. I also understand how limiting a restricted diet can be. Some day I believe we will understand CDRs enough to remove their limits. Until then, let’s expand them. That’s my hope for the Picknic community.

College can be a stressful time for anyone, but my freshman year presented challenges beyond academics or social concerns. That year was filled with health complications that resulted in a complete lifestyle change, including the removal of dairy from my diet. I never understood how deeply ingrained food is in our society until my food restrictions limited my ability to safely eat out with friends. As the years have passed, I have acclimated to this new lifestyle but eating out is still a challenge at times. For this reason, I strongly believe in Picknic’s mission to provide accurate and accessible information for those with critical dietary restrictions.

After adjusting my diet, I began working at a local bakery in my hometown as a “dietary baker.” I was responsible for preparing the allergen-friendly menu items, including baked goods free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, egg, and even sugar for those with critical dietary restrictions. During this time, I learned first-hand how to implement food safety protocols and manage the risks of cross-contact in a kitchen.  

I am currently a Dietetics major in my final year of college and hoping to use my personal experience to improve the lives of clients or patients in my future career. Contributing my academic expertise and first-hand experience to Picknic, an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of those with dietary restrictions, has been extremely rewarding to me. 

Food allergies and intolerances can often feel controlling or limiting but with the proper tools, we can learn to adjust without compromising our lives. 

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease all the way back in 1999 at the age of eight. My parents knew something was wrong as I was struggling to gain weight and grow in height. I was consistently the smallest kid in the class and often outgrown by kids grades younger than me.  After lots of testing, an endoscopy confirmed that I had Celiac Disease.

This was brand new to my entire family. We had never heard of Celiac Disease before and back in the late 90’s the products available were minimal. I took rice cakes and applesauce to school lunch for years because the gluten-free bread on the market tasted like cardboard. Going out to eat became a struggle! 

I significantly remember a time when I was probably nine or ten eating a bowl of pasta at a restaurant. Our server had assured us it was gluten-free, and after dinner when the chef came out to check on us – we discovered that this restaurant did not in fact offer a gluten-free pasta! If only Picknic existed back then, that entire unfortunate situation could have been avoided!

As a kid, I hated and often refused to advocate for myself. Now, 21 years later I know how important it is to do so. I’ve successfully been able to eat in a college dining hall, travel the country with friends, and even go camping in the Australian Outback or visit a remote village in Thailand- all while having Celiac Disease!

Working with Picknic has been incredible. The food allergy community has been in need of a platform like this for so long, and I’m extremely excited to see Picknic grow! 

My family’s food allergy journey began on a Labor Day beach vacation in 2012. We had no family history of food allergies and didn’t even know anyone who carried an Epi Pen. So, we didn’t think much of putting a little peanut butter on a piece of bread for our ten-month-old daughter. Her face immediately started swelling and growing large, bright red hives. Fortunately, this incident ended well. However, it did begin my long and winding process of understanding how to live life fully with food allergies.

Those first few years were full of confusion and anxiety as we navigated what was safe for my daughter. She ended up adding tree nuts, egg, fish, and sesame to her list of allergens. Resources and support were limited, but we were determined to educate ourselves and find a way for her to not miss out on life due to her food allergies. There were many unknowns, but one thing was certain: I did not want my daughter to be defined by or held back by her food allergies.

I was continually frustrated with how difficult it could be to find the information I needed and how much time it took to figure out if a restaurant was safe. Only a few restaurants published allergen menus. I had to find time to make calls at the right time of day to ensure the person I needed to speak to was available. Some restaurants were very knowledgeable about food allergies, others had no idea, and some clearly (and somewhat hurtfully) didn’t want to accommodate us at all.

I’m very thankful to be able to use my experience researching restaurants for my own family to benefit the entire Picknic community, where we are making it easier and safer for EVERYONE to enjoy eating out.

Meal planning and dining out with my family is quite interesting. My youngest daughter has multiple severe food allergies, I eat only plant-based foods, my husband is a vegetarian, and my oldest daughter will eat anything based on her mood. 

It was in 2010 in Seoul, South Korea that we learned our youngest daughter has food allergies. We were told by her foster mother that she had allergic reactions to sweet potatoes, eggs and flour. Flour?? What did they mean by that?? This was my first exposure to food allergies. We were not travelling with an Epi-Pen and had no idea what anaphylaxis or Epi-Pens even were. What would we do if she had another reaction? What’s all this talk about limiting the food we gave her? There were so many questions to come and we were completely in the dark managing this new condition. 

Through food allergy testing and finding the right allergist that first year together, we learned that she is severely allergic to wheat, barley, rye, eggs, peanuts, walnuts, pecans and sweet potato. Ten years ago there were not as many choices in the grocery store. I spent hours in the grocery store reading labels and calling food companies to inquire about cross-contact on the manufacturing line and within the facility. 

While my girl was growing up I was the one behind the scenes advocating for her safety and inclusion at school in the classrooms, field trips and the cafeteria. I was and am still the mom who bakes and packs safe treats for her while she attends a birthday party, or spends time at a friend’s house. I have trained countless babysitters and fellow moms on how to recognize and treat an allergic reaction. Most importantly, I have been teaching my daughter how to read ingredient labels, ask questions, and advocate for herself. It is a joy to see her handle her food allergy needs at school on her own. As she gets older she will be the one navigating her world with food allergies. 

We are a family who likes to travel. Before any trip I would spend weeks researching restaurants near our destination. Reading menus and contacting restaurant managers to inquire about their willingness and ability to accommodate food allergies was second nature to me. We have been told many times that a restaurant cannot or will not make an allergen-free meal for my daughter. In that case I would thank them for their honesty and move on to the next one.  

When we do visit a restaurant, we use a Chef Card. This card lists my daughter’s allergens and instructions on how to prepare her food safely. Due to her list of allergens, meals would often be custom-made for my daughter. But, could I really trust the restaurant to avoid cross-contact with her allergens when they were preparing her food? When a restaurant gets it right, it’s a win for our entire family, and we want to return to and support that restaurant again and again.

In 2016 I made the choice to eat only plant-based foods. I wasn’t really enjoying the same rotation of chicken, beef and pork. All I really wanted to do was to eat the potatoes, rice and vegetables. Watching the documentary Forks Over Knives made me realize that there are so many delicious flavors that come from whole-food, plant-based eating. More importantly, a couple of health issues that had been concerning me all went away after I stopped eating animals.

Restaurants are changing their menus to appeal to the plant-based movement. From fast-food to fine dining we are starting to see more vegan choices on the menu. It is more than just a salad. For example, chefs are adding homemade veggie/bean burgers, cauliflower ‘steaks’, build your own rice bowls, and create your own pasta dishes to their menus. Nuts and grains are being used in creative ways. The ever versatile tofu can be transformed into many things – even chocolate pie! There are so many great options out there, but it isn’t always easy to find them.

Working with Picknic and helping to make the dining out experience easier and safer for people with critical dietary restrictions is a natural extension of what I have been doing for my family for the past ten years. I love that I get to help everyone in the food allergy and plant-based community narrow down restaurant choices so that we can all spend more time with our loved ones dreaming up our next great meal or vacation.

Join Us

We are growing and thoughtfully adding people to our team. We are looking for nutritionists, developers, data scientists & engineers, marketers, and PR professionals. But more than specific skills, we look for people that are creative, resourceful, and passionate about helping us accomplish our mission.

If you are interested in joining us, please email team@picknic.app and tell us why our mission is important to you.