By RACHEL KING
Updated: July 24, 2018 11:39 AM ET
Restaurant goers in New York City, Los Angeles, and many other American cities have likely seen letter grades posted in eateries’ windows. These are often awarded by city health inspectors to denote how clean and sanitary a restaurant is, from the front of the house to the back.
Now, many of these diners won’t have to wait until they get to the restaurant to find out or rely on surmising what they can based on other user photos.
Yelp (YELP, -1.68%) announced on Tuesday that it is adding health inspection data to thousands of restaurant listings nationwide on the crowd-sourced platform.
“For decades, cities have regularly inspected restaurants to ensure food safety, providing this information publicly to citizens,” wrote Luther Lowe, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Yelp, in a blog post. “Unfortunately, this information is often buried on clunky ‘dot gov’ websites beyond the easy reach of consumers.”
Yelp has actually been working on the initiative for a few years now under its LIVES (Local Inspector Value-entry Specification) program with additional guidance from the Obama administration, starting with the addition of health inspector data to listings in San Francisco and New York as far back as 2013.
“Public/private partnerships like this don’t necessarily provide a direct contribution to Yelp’s bottom line, but evidence suggests the LIVES open data standard will have a positive impact on society,” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman wrote at the time, citing a University of Maryland study that consumer awareness of restaurant hygiene scores reduces the number of hospitalizations due to food-borne illness.
So far, Yelp has added health inspection information to more than 350,000 business pages (roughly 39% of Yelp’s U.S. restaurant listings), both in partnership with local governments, and working with HDScores, an aggregator for static health inspection data from public and private sources. But Yelp is already planning to scale upward—fast—with the goal of adding this information to approximately one million listings as it ingests HDScores’ full database, which Yelp says covers three quarters of the U.S. population across 42 states.
Scores will be available starting today for restaurants in New York, California, Texas, Illinois and D.C, with the plan to roll out more scores, state-by-state, in the coming months.