allegy

There are times when going to a restaurant can be difficult, especially if you are allergic to specific foods. Oscar’s Pier 83, a Glendale staple for 15 years, now caters to such people.

The restaurant recently implemented a new system: MenuStar by CertiStar.

CertiStar was founded by Shandee Chernow, who has her own food allergies. She ended up quitting her job of selling software to start the company.

“I decided there has to be a better way in the food industry to handle food-allergic customers,” Chernow said.

When the owner of Oscar’s Pier 83, Ron Skehan, found out about MenuStar, he got on board with the new system because he wanted to provide accuracy in his foods’ ingredients to those with allergies.

“Before, all we did was guess or advise our customer, ‘It’s your allergy; you should know what you can and cannot have,’” Skehan said.

When he met with CertiStar and put the system into effect, the process became more detailed.

“My hope was to tap into a revenue stream,” Skehan said. “We were not offering the consumers the information they needed.”

Chernow and Skehan made it clear the system is quick and easy. They said it works within seconds.

“You can put in any combo of foods,” Chernow said. “There are 107 different foods that are known to cause food-allergic reactions. This makes it super easy. Just put in the list of what you are allergic to and you get the menu back and you get either green, yellow or red.”

Through the MenuStar system, green confirms to guests there are no allergy possibilities, while yellow signifies the food can be allergy-friendly with modifications, whether it be leaving off a component or cooking the food in a clean pan.

CertiStar wants to make sure no one has to rely on knowledge of a particular person or the restaurant to remember every single thing that is in the food. MenuStar gives a more fact- and data-based answer. 

“We don’t want to go with, ‘Eh, you should be OK,’” Chernow said. “We want to make sure we go with an abundance of cautions.”

Oscar’s Pier 83 has a special iPad programmed with MenuStar. Staff can assist customers in researching their allergies if needed.

In “less than a minute they can identify multiple items on our menu that are safe for them to eat,” Skehan said. “Believe me, there is a revenue stream that most restaurants aren’t tapping into. It is begging to pay off for us already.”

Because the system works within seconds, it does not take longn to familiarize staff.

If anything, Skehan said more money can be saved by reducing the amount of training time needed by employees. In the past, Oscar’s Pier 83 had to be specific with employees, such as teaching them if a certain food contained gluten or not.

“We save time training the individual by them picking up the iPad and clicking on an allergy,” Skehan said. “Everyone knows how to use a computer nowadays. Especially the young crew we have employed here.”

According to Chernow, MenuStar’s reliability is due to its database of more than 300,000 foods and ingredients. The system stores each item the restaurant sells, down to the exact ingredients and brands.

“We cross reference all the allergies a person puts in,” Chernow said. “For example, my pork allergy. We are not looking for the word ‘pork.’ Pork presents itself in many different ways.”

When Skehan received the initial set up, he and his employees would go through dry runs for training. Occasionally they would spot a few mistakes.

And if a mistake should arise, it can simply be corrected.

“We bring it to the programmer’s attention and he has it corrected in less than a minute. Right now, we are running 98% accurate, and having only been on board for three weeks, it is pretty impressive.”