SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – Health inspection reports aren’t a secret, but finding them can be a hassle. San Francisco-based Yelp wants to make that information part of users’ restaurant selection.
Yelp has been quietly working on this new feature in Marin and San Francisco for the past 5 years. They’re ready to launch it nationwide.
It’s called “Health Scores.”
To hear Yelp describe it, there is a buffet of valuable restaurant inspection data out there and the crowd-sourced review forum aims to help its users digest it.
“Now some restaurants weren’t thrilled with it, if you have a good record, you wouldn’t mind the extra transparency, but if you don’t we can understand you might not,” said company spokesman Vince Sollito.
Yelp works with a third-party vendor to process data feeds directly from city and county agencies themselves. When the agencies don’t provide a feed, robots fan out online to scrape the data off government websites and compile it together.
The result on the mobile app is a condensed report, often with just scores and dates, but the desktop site has more info, like the details about the violations.
Yelp says when customers see a low score, they don’t call the restaurant, they don’t click to get directions, and they certainly do not look at the menu.
“We do see that consumers use it. They patronize businesses with bad health scores less,” said Sollitto.
Rochelle Gatti works with Santa Clara County, and welcomes the effort.
“I think it’s a good thing. Just want to make sure they get updated information,” she said.
However, for now, Santa Clara County’s own app called SCCDineOut not only has the most current and most up-to-date scores, it also has the actual reports with all the nitty gritty details. One review talked about “cockroaches of all life cycles found” inside the restaurant.
But there can be discrepancies with the Yelp health scores.
For example, at Emperor of India in South San Jose, Yelp has old data from January saying they have a score of 72.
But a check of the county website, shows the score dropped down to 52, and then more problems forced them shut down for a few days. Currently there is no score.
“I’m not sure how often they scrape that data, and how current the data is,” said Gatti. “So we advise the public for the most current information, to go to our website.”
Yelp says it takes about two weeks to scrape the data off government sites.
“If a city wants its health scores posted even more timely, they can establish a partnership directly with Yelp and send us a feed of that information,” said Sollitto.
Yelp says by the end of the year, Health Scores will roll out to 42 states, and cover 750,000 restaurants.
“When consumers have access to health score data like this, two things happen. Restaurants get cleaner, and less consumers get sick,” said Sollitto.
KPIX tried to get a comment from Emperor of India about their health rating, but the owner wasn’t available.