Work Life

Get in my belly: YoDish is your special diet restaurant guide

Sebastian Williams spent a year traveling the world with his wife Meggie after they got married. The two IBM strategy consultants took a one-year work sabbatical, then returned and went straight into the startup world.

She became the Charlotte manager of local startup Move Loot, he became director of operations for a free app called YoDish.

YoDish launched in Charlotte in February as a dining guide for sharing and discussing gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, and food-allergy friendly restaurant meals. The guide is developed by grabbing information from online restaurant menus.

How  it works:

Download the app from the iTunes store, create a quick profile based on diet (vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, etc.) and allergy sensitivities (peanuts, shellfish, gluten, etc.) then find restaurants based on location.

Click on “Dishes ” to try (user ratings included); “Dish It” to post photos, ratings and comments on the dishes; or “Links” to that restaurant’s allergen, gluten-free or veg menus.


The goal is to have YoDish featuring the top 15 metro areas by the end of the year. There are currently  20,000 users all over the country.

I tapped into the app at Sunflour Baking Company, where I met Williams.

His words of wisdom on how to leap into the startup realm:

(1) Pick a passion.

“I had known that I wanted to leave corporate,” Williams, 27, said, “I just didn’t know what that opportunity was going to be.”

Mutual friends introduced him and YoDish app founder Justin Cunningham, who was inspired to help others like his wife and kids who have food allergies but still want to dine out.

Williams suddenly saw a huge demand for this type of information.

“We’re living in a space where people use mobile technology when they want an answer,” he said. “For this particular subset of people, I realized that they need the answer the most.”

(2) Pick a partner.

Williams first met Cunningham at Dunkin’ Donuts to discuss business.

“He is the most driven person I think I’ve ever met,” Williams said. “I could see his confidence when he was talking about the product.”

They also had good chemistry.

“Whenever you are going to work so closely with someone,” Williams said, “you want to make sure they are a great person to hang out with.”

(3) Secure support. 

Williams said his main sense of support comes from Meggie.

“We both joined startups in the same weekend so we were able to relate to the stresses and also the excitement,’’ he said.

He also has a mentor, a fellow UNC alum, who offers perspective. He told Williams that, to be an entrepreneur, you have to overcome that fear of releasing from security.

(4) Expect constant connection to your idea.

Williams said that his flow of ideas is his biggest challenge lately: “Now that I am so invested, I can’t really turn it off.”

But, he said, “It’s great. I never cared this much before.”

Katie Toussaint
Katie Toussaint @katietoussaint