Yelp to begin restaurant hygiene scores in the US


There’s a fly in your soup? Well now, the world will know. That last thing anyone wants to do is eat at a dirty restaurant.

Beginning Tuesday, Yelp will provide “hygiene scores” for restaurants in New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Washington, DC. The company plans to continue rolling out the feature in the months to come, eventually covering 750,000 restaurants in large metropolitan areas throughout the country.

Although health inspection reports aren’t a secret, finding them can be a hassle. They’re often posted deep within a municipal government website, or taped up in a corner of the restaurant. “The idea here is to take this information living on clunky dot-gov websites and put it inside Yelp where you’re probably already trying figure out where to go eat, and see it in the context of that decision,” Luther Lowe, the company’s senior VP of public policy, told CNNMoney.

But even that can take a long time, and not every city provided info. So Yelp augments its data set with help from HDScores, a startup that aggregates, processes, and distributes restaurant inspection data from public and private sources.

Yelp (YELP) started displaying hygiene inspection scores for restaurants in its hometown of San Francisco back in 2013. Robert Scharff, an associate professor at Ohio State University who studies the economics of food safety, said Yelp’s effort could help consumers make better decisions about where to dine.

“You’ve been able to get some of that information when you show up at the restaurant,” he said. “But the problem is that once you get there, you’ve already kind of made your decision and you’re very unlikely to change your mind. Yelp allows them to see that information before they’ve decided where to eat.”

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