Choosing a restaurant to visit used to be a fun, casual pastime. The decision centered around questions like, “Where do you want to go? I don’t know. Where do you want to go?” Sometimes people looked up advertisements in their local directories, but it was a free-flowing experience based on a sense of adventure. It was a simpler time. Now the decision-making process has become more sophisticated. Restaurant patrons want to get the most for their money. They consider customer reviews. They may search for outdoor venue locations before making a decision. They also look at overall restaurant ratings on platforms such as Yelp.
Although Yelp has published health inspection ratings since 2004, it has recently expanded. As of March 31, 2022, Yelp has joined with Hazel Analytics to display hygiene data on 700,000 Yelp pages. Sharing information on health inspection jurisdictions of almost 70% of the U.S. and parts of Canada brings tremendous improvement to food safety and public health. This powerful partnership allows consumers access to unprecedented public health information as the country opens again after COVID. Access to this level of information could positively affect revenue for the restaurant industry if scores are favorable. This would require restaurant owners to be more vigilant. Suppose a low hygiene rating is posted on Yelp. In that case, restaurant owners should respond by immediately addressing their sanitation and cleaning protocols to make sure they perform well on the next inspection.
The Yelp algorithm for open data standards began to form with the Local Inspector Value Entry (LIVES) program to unify restaurant inspection data. In 2012, Code for America and the city of San Francisco partnered with Yelp to develop this beginning platform which would allow state and municipal health agencies to compile and organize restaurant inspection information for public viewing. Although it was disorganized and not uniform, the goal was to reduce foodborne illnesses and promote public health. Thankfully, this beginning-level data has helped and has morphed into a more developed platform promoting overall restaurant cleanliness. Especially after the worldwide pandemic of COVID -19, this information has become extremely valuable. Accessing it through a trustworthy source could affect a person’s livelihood, health, and the ongoing economic health within the restaurant industry.
The upgraded section on Yelp about hygiene scores is under the “Info” section. Clicking on the health score allows users to see the health score and details on county health departments’ inspection and violation information.
What does this mean for restaurants? Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that your training is thorough and up to date. It entails making sure that proper protocols are continuously followed each and every time. From back to front of house, your staff needs regular, ongoing training to ensure safety and health standards are always met.
Eating at a restaurant has changed forever. Restaurant owners are held to higher standards. Patrons have higher expectations. Choosing a restaurant can still be fun. Now it can be smart, too, thanks to Yelp.