Critics Question Yelp’s Health Inspection Alerts
An alert appearing on Yelp that discloses San Francisco health inspection scores may “improve the functioning of markets” and help consumers make “better decisions,” but critics reportedly say the posted scores illustrate the failures of the city’s food-safety inspection system. Two researchers, who authored “Digitizing Disclosures: The Case of Restaurant Hygiene Scores,” previously helped Yelp design the alert boxes, which appear on pages for about five percent of San Francisco restaurants. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the alert boxes reduced Yelp users’ “intention to visit” by 21 percent, despite the intention of the alerts to be a system of accountability rather than a warning of deterrence.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) told the Chronicle that the scores are based on routine inspections conducted every six to 18 months. If restaurants earn a low inspection score, they have a week to correct the violations or face closure. “If you see [a low score], that was fixed in a week,” a spokesperson for the GGRA reportedly said. “You fix the violations, but live with the score until the next inspection.” A spokesperson for San Francisco Health Department confirmed to the Chronicle that “[i]f the restaurant is open, that means they’ve been inspected and should be safe to eat.”