SIOUX FALLS S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls native has partnered with Papa Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza to offer an allergy information menu.
Brady Barr, a 2022 Minnesota State University, Mankato graduate, created Allergy Aware in response to smaller, local restaurants not listing their food allergies on their menus. Barr himself has several allergies and found it hard to eat out.
“I’m allergic to milk, eggs, nuts and peanuts,” Barr said. “Going out to eat is like my biggest challenge.”
Barr works with businesses to create an Allergy Aware Info Menu, or AAIM, that lists the top nine food allergies– milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and sesame– and the foods that contain the allergies.
He approached Lisa Esser, owner of Papa Woody’s in downtown Sioux Falls, a few months ago to create an allergy menu. Since then, Barr has been going through every product at Papa Woody’s and figuring out its allergy information. He will next create an allergy menu that customers can access on the Allergy Aware website. Papa Woody’s AAIM is set to launch at the end of June.
“I think this is a really awesome program for us to be involved in because it’s in the customer’s hands,” Esser said. “If they say gluten, but it’s worded differently on a label and I don’t know that, I may tell them it’s safe and it might not be for them. So, we’re putting a little confidence in our customers that if they’ve got an allergy, they know what ingredients they’re looking for.”
Esser was interested in the idea of an allergy menu because the need and customer demand have increased over the years as they add more menu items.
“We get it so much more now where people come in and they’re like, ‘Hey, do you know if this is in this?’ And then we’re all stopping to go and read labels and figure things out,” Esser said. “I didn’t have much request for allergy information, now all of a sudden, I would say that if we don’t have somebody ask several times a week, that’s unusual.”
Allergy Aware’s first partnership was with Pub 500, a Mankato-based bar and grill. Pub 500’s allergy menu launched in May 2022.
After the success of the AAIM for Pub 500, Barr wanted to expand their market and create menus for Sioux Falls businesses as well. He approached Papa Woody’s because the restaurant is in a prominent location in downtown Sioux Falls. Barr said he hopes other businesses will follow suit and reach out to have Allergy Aware menus created.
“We wanted to get a business in Sioux Falls so we hope it’ll be a domino effect once we launch the menu at Papa Woody’s,” Barr said. “We kind of hope that all the other restaurants see it and want it as well.”
Barr graduated from Mankato with a finance and entrepreneurship degree. He originally had the idea in August of 2020 and officially registered Allergy Aware as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in March 2021.
Initially, his goal was to get legislation passed where all restaurants must list their allergies, like chain restaurants and packaged ingredients, but he received the advice to “be a feather, nut a hammer” and was encouraged not to create a mandate for businesses. So, Allergy Aware was conceived and now restaurant owners can opt-in and have their menus checked over.
“I think it’s important for us to be able to say to our customers we care and we want you to be able to eat here and we want you to be able to do it safely and know that when you leave here you’re not going to feel sick,” Esser said.
In April, Barr won third place and the People’s Choice at the Minnesota State University, Mankato Big Ideas Challenge, which awarded him $4,000. The Big Ideas Challenge is run through the College of Business where students and recent graduates can pitch their business ideas.
Barr put the $4,000 prize right back into the business. He hopes to hire an accountant and bookkeeper in the future as well as create an app. However, that won’t be for a while, as Barr said the app would cost around $10,000.
“I hope it’ll be a full-time thing that I can do,” he said. “My vision for the app is to be just a big database with all of our AAIMs in it so that people with food allergies can be traveling, and they can just search by their location to find places that are allergy aware.”