GLENDALE, AZ — Having a food allergy can make going to restaurants really difficult. The staff isn't always well educated on what is and isn't safe, and your options can be very limited. Now, new technology created by a Valley woman is opening up more of the menu.
Shandee Chernow has food allergies that she admits are an unusual combo: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and pork.
Longing for a way to cut out some of the guesswork that goes into choosing a safe place to eat, Chernow came up with CertiStar, a software platform that allows restaurants to customize a menu on the fly.
A customer enters their allergens -- the most common 8 are listed and there's an area where you can type in your own.
The CertiStar algorithm sorts through every ingredient in every dish and how it's cooked at any given restaurant creating an individualized menu using the 'stop light' system.
Items listed in green are good to go. Anything in yellow needs a substitution or to be cooked separately, and the red section means there is no option.
The order ticket reinforces the changes, easing stress for waiters and chefs, which Ron Skehan says is a game changer for his staff.
His restaurant, Oscar's Pier 83, is one of 15 Valley restaurants using the technology and he's already seeing a difference in the bottom line.
"A person with an allergy would order something to be safe and spend $6. Now there's a good possibility they might spend $17. So it's an all-around win for all of us," Skehan said.
Most participating locations let you enter the allergy information online so you can see your options before you dine there. Some have added a kiosk in-house for you to search and others have iPads with the technology for the tables.
Chernow says she's working on expanding the technology to even more businesses.