To All Who Come to This Friendly Place...Welcome!
It all started with a mouse. Or (perhaps more accurately), it all started with our last visit to the mouse...
In December 2019, our family took a trip to Disneyland. This was our first visit back to the resort since my partner was diagnosed with celiac disease earlier that year. At the time, she was on a very restrictive diet. Disneyland was incredible accommodating to our new dietary needs and everywhere we dined did an outstanding job, but it all took time...a lot of time.
Time walking to the restaurant to see what is on the allergy-friendly menu. Time confirming substitutions to see if they have a meal that meets our needs. Time consulting with chefs and servers to understand their preparation and handling practices.
It might not seem like much, but it adds up. And when you are spending over $500 a day for your family to be in the parks, you don't want to waste one second more than you have to worrying about food. That is valuable time that you could be using to crush rides, or watch a show or just roll up on your favorite bench and sit there, soaking in that Disney magic. And that is how the Friendliest.app was born.
On the way home from our trip, I started working out the design for a online, Disneyland-centric gluten-friendly planning tool I dubbed Glutenfree-Land. Yes, in hindsight the name was awful, but the elevator pitch was sound - a robust, inexpensive resource for people with gluten intolerance to help maximize their time in the parks and minimize their food stress.
I knew from the start that this was going to be more than just a blog or a simple website, so in January 2020 I started a new #100DaysOfCode challenge to learn Ruby on Rails, the framework of the application. From there the concept quickly evolved. First, the focus grew from gluten-friendly meals to include all of the top 8 food allergens. Then we started adding functionality - list making and sharing, likes and comments, archives for past and historic restaurants, meals and menus. We also settled on a much better name. The Friendliest.app - helping make the Happiest Place on Earth the (Allergy-)friendliest Place on Earth too.
And then a global pandemic shutdown Disneyland and shutdown development on the Friendliest.app. Truthfully, with the long-term closure of the resort and a full plate, helping navigate through a global pandemic at the day job, I didn't have it in me for a long time to work on something I wasn't sure would ever have an opportunity to be used.
The spark came back last November when Downtown Disney and Bueno Vista Street reopened to the public. I saw the pent-up energy, the excitement gushing out of people and it gave me the kick in the ass I needed to get back to development.
When California announced the state's theme park reopening guidelines last month and that distant dream of once again walking down Main Street ,U.S.A starting to feel more and more like a imminent reality, things moved into high gear.
Now, as we sit here, less than one week from the parks reopening, I am extremely proud to announce that the Friendliest.app is in free public beta! We still have a lot of work to do - you'll see many enhancements and features rolling out over the next several months. But, we wanted to have something ready for reopening. With strict capacity limits and no discounted tickets or passes, our park time is more valuable than ever. If we can help you get back 5 minutes of park time on your next visit, we will be extremely humbled.
To all who come to this friendly place, welcome! The Friendliest.app is your app!
Kevin Williams | Friday, April 2nd 2021