Eating out with food allergies can be a daunting task instead of a pleasurable experience, keeping those with severe food allergies at bay when it comes to eating out.
Shandee Chernow understands this dilemma firsthand. Her struggles with food allergies began at age 28.
"I was selling software and part of my job involved networking with clients over food and drinks. I didn’t want the topic of allergies to become the focus of conversations with clients, so I would go to the restaurant early and discuss my allergies with the server. I’ve had so many experiences with how restaurants handle my food allergies and most of the time finding safe dining options is a struggle."
With 32 million Americans living with food allergies, Chernow knew she wasn’t the only one going through this situation and it was clear that the problem of food allergies in the culinary industry wasn’t being addressed properly.
"I wanted to help myself and others like me have easier and safer dining experiences. Using my background in computer science and data solutions, I figured out that it was just a big data problem involving the cross-referencing of food allergies with recipes, ingredient and cooking instructions. I was in a unique position to develop a solution for the entire hospitality industry to be able to serve food-allergic guests in an easier and safer way, thus came the introduction of CertiStar in 2017."
Most of the tools used by restaurants handle one allergy at a time and only consider the top 8 allergens in the US. Since there are over 170 different foods that have caused food allergic reactions, and upwards of 30% of food allergic people have multiple allergens, these tools are insufficient. CertiStar aims to help restaurants easily handle any food allergy situations that they encounter.
CertiStar is user friendly; the guest can simply enter their individual allergy or combination of allergies into the platform at any partnered restaurant. The platform then has a process of complex logic that happens in the background to determine an individualized menu specifically for that guest. The items on the restaurant’s menu are separated stoplight style into green, yellow and red. The green items are considered to be allergen friendly choices while the yellow require some modification and the red options should be avoided. A complete and accurate list of approved options for the guest is provided and that person can even order items in multiple categories, like appetizers and desserts. Once a customer has a positive experience dining out, they will be inclined to share the experience amongst the community and create additional loyal fans for the restaurant.
"The resources we provide restaurants are impacting the food allergic community every day. CertiStar’s data-based software creates an additional layer of safety as we examine every recipe, ingredient, and possible areas of cross-contamination. We also minimize loose ends in the kitchen as accurately as possible and help the restaurant team’s to streamline their operations, allowing them to ultimately turn tables faster, which puts more money in their pockets. Our mission is to give both the food allergic guests as well as restaurant owners greater peace of mind in the overall dining out experience."
CertiStar has partnered with several restaurants in the Valley including Chompies, Oscar’s Pier 83 and Joe’s Real BBQ. All have seen amazing results with revenue, operations, and customer experience.
Chernow says she has lofty goals in this new year to bring CertiStar to a variety of industries, "We’ve worked with schools and have plans to partner with national and global organizations in the hospitality and cruise line industry. I want those with food allergies, wherever they are based, to have more options and safer places to dine."