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The Burlington made app that knows what’s in your food

Posted: April 6, 2016

Free app grabs nutritional information of menu items from over 300 chain restaurants

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Hamilton Spectator

They say you are what you eat, but what if you don’t know what you’re eating?

That can be the case when dining out in restaurants, where there’s very little nutritional information on the menu and servers often can’t fill in the blanks.

When it happened to Delmar Powell and Richard Green recently, during a visit to a Hamilton sushi restaurant, the Burlington friends, both business grads — Powell from Mohawk and Green from Wilfrid Laurier — started thinking.

“We were there, stuffing our faces, and we thought to ourselves ‘I wonder what’s the nutritional content we’re having right now?'” says Powell, 28.

From there, they partnered with friend David Pullar (a software developer who graduated from Sheridan) on an app, called Second Waiter, designed to offer that information. It’s a free download from iTunes for iPhone users.

The goal was something that would pull together info, not only on calories, but carbs, sodium and fat, and the top 20 allergens, including nuts, dairy and wheat.

The trio registered Second Waiter in May 2015, six months before the FDA ruled that American restaurants with 20 or more locations had to make nutritional information available to customers (Canada will do the same by 2017).

The majority of this information is published in brochures or online, but it’s not always easily accessible, says Powell.

“We are a bit ahead of the curve for Canada,” says Powell. “But just in time for the U.S.”

Second Waiter tries to simplify eating out by consolidating those numbers in the same place.

Its straightforward layout contains the nutritional information for more than 40,000 menu items at more than 300 North American chain restaurants including Applebee’s, Swiss Chalet, Baskin Robbins, Boston Pizza and Tim Hortons.

It also allows users to set filters to rule out meals containing ingredients to which they might be allergic.

Since the official launch in mid-February, Powell says Second Waiter has gained a few thousand followers.

Right now, Powell says the business sees itself as North American-based, but the hope is to go global. He’d also like to start carrying nutritional information for smaller chains and one-off restaurants.

Right now, the main concern of the business is focusing on providing comprehensive information on allergens (“for some people, it’s a matter of a life or death situation,” says Powell). In general though, the goal is to make it easier for people to be conscious of what they’re eating.

akenny@thespec.com

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http://www.thespec.com/living-story/6435983-the-burlington-made-app-that-knows-what-s-in-your-food