Want a health inspection grade with that dining review?
Starting Wednesday, Yelp, the go-to online resource for restaurant feedback, is now supplementing user reviews of dining experiences with venues’ county health inspection scores and letter grades.
While Yelp has been offering this added information in selected cities since 2013, it had yet to add San Diego to the mix.
Now when you click on a particular restaurant, up will pop assorted reviews, along with a link to the menu, the hours, price range and the outcome of its latest health safety inspections.
“We’re doing this because we believe it can save people’s lives by putting out relevant information about hygiene scores,” said Luther Lowe, vice president of public policy for Yelp. “When people are in the middle of making a dining decision, we can steer them away from potentially negative experiences and also put pressure on the restaurant industry to raise the bar.”
Since 2013, when Yelp introduced the new restaurant feature in San Francisco, it’s expanded into a dozen more cities and counties, including Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties in California.
For now, Yelp is relying on local jurisdictions and volunteer data processing experts to help deliver restaurant inspection information to the company in a format that can be integrated into its website and app.
While the county of San Diego already makes available restaurant inspection information on a dedicated website, Yelp teamed with HDScores, a company that has expertise in working with restaurant inspection data, to help process the publicly available reports for San Diego County restaurants.
The thinking is that while the county offers the information in an easily digestible form, Yelp has a much broader reach and is more familiar to both locals as well as those visiting San Diego.
“In San Diego it’s not very hard to see the data, but when you travel, you’d have to go to different websites across the country,” said Matthew Eierman, founder of HDScores. “But by having it aggregated into a single portal, you’re making it easy to reach, read and understand.”
He pointed out that his company already has access to data for 860,000 restaurants in 1,500 jurisdictions.
Once on Yelp, users will be able to quickly see a restaurant’s health inspection grade and then delve deeper by looking at recent inspections, the score the venue received and what minor or major food handling and storage violations it might have been cited for.
Yelp’s partnership with HDScores is currently a pilot program and could lead to collaborations in more cities.
“We’re in the early stages with HD Scores and we’re hopeful we can expand this into other areas across the country,” Lowe said.
County officials, who did not work with Yelp, are reserving judgment on the level of accuracy of the health inspection information posted on the website.
“The county already provides restaurant inspection results for the public and has for some time,” said Gig Conaughton, a spokesman for the county. “The latest restaurant inspections are posted at eatsafesandiego.org. This is the most accurate, up-to-date information, and it would be critical from a public health and safety standpoint that any information posted by Yelp is the most current information.”
HDScores said it will be updating San Diego’s health inspection information weekly. Each Monday, the company will pull the inspection data for San Diego. Eierman said he’s already seen the value of such information from the company’s own app, which provides such information in a number of cities.
“Since we’ve been doing this on our own, we have about 500,000 people searching our app a month. so it’s a growing trend,” he said. “We would love to work with Yelp on even more cities.”