San Francisco teams with Yelp to offer restaurant health scores with user reviews 

click to enlarge A collaboration between Yelp and San Francisco officials could draw attention to restaurant cleanliness. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • A collaboration between Yelp and San Francisco officials could draw attention to restaurant cleanliness.

Customers browsing Yelp for San Francisco restaurants will have new information available to them starting today: health ratings.

The online amateur review site has teamed up with the cities of San Francisco and New York to make health inspection scores more readily available, and an effort is under way to take the setup nationwide.

Mayor Ed Lee and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman unveiled the program Wednesday. Today, Lee is expected to announce the standardized database at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., so municipalities nationwide can make such information more readily available.

“This new partnership with Yelp to offer restaurant health inspection scores on its site is another significant step in the open data movement,” Lee said in a statement. “By making often hard-to-find government information more widely available to innovative companies like Yelp, we can make government more transparent and improve public health outcomes for our residents through the power of technology.”

The new initiative, which uses information in San Francisco that’s already available to the public, could help prevent foodborne illnesses. According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, hospitalizations from foodborne illnesses dropped 13 percent after Los Angeles started requiring restaurants to post health scores in entrances in the early 1990s.

Michael Luca, a Harvard Business School professor, said the initiative is the digital version of the posted scores in Los Angeles, and should provide the scores to a wider audience. The information is already available on the San Francisco Public Health Department and DataSF websites.

Barbara Garcia, director of health for the department, said the program could become a model for disclosure of other information. She said the majority of restaurants in San Francisco score well on the rating system, which evaluates eateries on a scale up to 100, with any score of 70 or below deemed to be poor.

Making the information more accessible could force restaurants that do not score well to take food safety more seriously, Garcia said.

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