In the early 2000s, a study about the Los Angeles County restaurant industry showed the number of hospitalizations due to foodborne illness dropped by 13% after restaurants were required to publicly post physical print-outs of their health inspection grades. This study inspired us to think about what a digital version of the same consumer disclosure might look like. In 2013, Yelp created a new open data standard called LIVES to digitize restaurant hygiene scores and make them easily accessible to consumers.
For nearly a decade, we’ve invested heavily in expanding this standardized restaurant inspection data to help consumers make informed decisions about dining at establishments that may put them at higher risk. Subsequent research found that Yelp’s digitized hygiene scores in Louisville, KY, drove an uptick in hygiene quality among restaurants while decreasing cases of foodborne illness. The study, which was published in The Journal of Industrial Economics, concluded that “displaying health inspection information on Yelp significantly reduced rates of severe food poisoning,” relative to the rest of the state.
Today, Yelp is announcing that we’ve joined forces with Hazel Analytics, a Seattle-based company specializing in the use of data-driven technology solutions to improve food safety and public health, to broaden the reach of this feature. Hazel Analytics now powers the hygiene data on nearly 700,000 Yelp pages, surfacing information about health inspection jurisdictions representing nearly 70% of the U.S. population. This feature incorporates data from health departments across 48 U.S. states and for the first time brings Canadian health scores to Yelp, with data from Toronto and Vancouver.
“Since our founding, the mission of Hazel Analytics has been to improve public health by connecting food service businesses, regulators and consumers,” said Arash Nasibi, co-founder and CEO at Hazel Analytics. “After years of providing award-winning technology solutions to enterprise food safety professionals, we’re now excited to partner with Yelp to make it easier than ever for consumers to have access to local dining establishments’ public health inspection information.”
The expansion of Yelp’s health scores program comes at a time when people are returning to indoor dining as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift, health inspections are bouncing back from the early pandemic pause, and restaurants continue to embrace diner safety measures like contactless payments and virtual menus.
At Yelp, we’re committed to empowering and protecting consumers by surfacing useful and reliable information on local businesses. Through our partnership with Hazel Analytics, we hope to build upon the success of LIVES and make it easier for people to find this vital public health information.
How health scores are displayed on Yelp
Because health scores are not standardized there are a few ways in which we collect and display health inspection data on Yelp. These are the different types of health inspection scores you may see on Yelp:
- A health score we receive directly from a local health department. There are many different scoring methods used by municipalities throughout the country including pass/fail, a numerical score from 1-100, a letter grade, etc.
- A health score we get from Hazel Analytics, which they collect from local health departments’ publicly available data.
- An estimated health score from Hazel Analytics. Health department practices vary widely, and some do not publish a score along with their health inspection findings. In these instances, Hazel Analytics uses available underlying data to estimate a score based on a 100-point scoring system, commonly used by health departments, to show how a business’s latest inspection compares to others in the same jurisdiction. For more information on how Hazel Analytics calculates its estimated score, visit Hazel Analytics’ FAQ page.