San Francisco partners with Yelp on open data for health ratings

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At the end of last week, the Mayor of San Francisco, California Edwin M. Lee partnered with Yelp CEO and Co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman to include restaurant health inspection data on the Yelp app. Yelp already provides basic business information, and user ratings for things like restaurants and entertainment. Now in addition to hours and menu items, users will be able to see the last health inspection rating issued by the city. New York City will be the next city to add such ratings in a few weeks.

Working with the technology departments of San Francisco and New York, Yelp’s engineering team designed the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES) which enables local municipalities to accurately upload restaurant health inspection scores to Yelp’s database. Philadelphia is also working to implement this technology with their health inspection ratings system and is expected to start including the ratings further down the line.

“This new partnership with Yelp to offer restaurant health inspection scores on its site is another significant step in the Open Data movement,” said Mayor Lee.

According to a study, which appeared in the Journal of Environmental Health in March 2005, Los Angeles County’s decision to require restaurants to display hygiene grade cards on their entrances led to a 13 percent decrease in hospitalizations due to foodborne illness. The study also demonstrated that the mandatory public display of these health grades improved the overall average score of restaurants in Los Angeles by incentivizing improved best practices across the local industry.

After the study, Yelp decided to leverage its popularity among consumers to increase awareness of these ratings by including them in the application. San Francisco was one of the first municipal adopters of open data for government, this partnership with Yelp accounts for the lastest movement toward making more government data accessible. San Francisco was one of the first cities to adopt open data for government, although like others, has been slow to release anything of real substance. This partnership while notable builds on the release of low hanging fruit datasets. These ratings were essentially already open, being posted throughout restaurants.