It’s getting a lot easier to avoid getting violently ill from food poisoning, and to see just how divey your favorite dive bar is.
Yelp announced today that the platform will start featuring hygiene scores of restaurants alongside reviews, photos, and other information. As of today, the feature is available in California, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC, but Yelp says it intends to roll the initiative out in other states soon. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of U.S. restaurants should have their hygiene scores listed publicly on Yelp.
This new feature is a part of Yelp’s LIVES (Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification) program, which the company started in 2013. LIVES relies on HDScores, a search engine for restaurant inspection reports covering 42 states, which built a special system for Yelp.
In a blog post announcing the feature, Yelp’s public policy boss Luther Lowe wrote that cities have been doing restaurant inspections and providing the information publicly for decades. “Unfortunately, this information is often buried on clunky ‘dot gov’ websites beyond the easy reach of consumers,” he wrote. “Or equally inconvenient, it’s accessible in the offline world, displayed somewhere in the physical business, and not always obvious to the diner.”
After about three years of development, the LIVES system will make that information more readily available. When users click the health score on a restaurant’s Yelp page, the site will share more information on recent inspection dates and how how many violations were cited.
Hovering your mouse over the violation number on the desktop version of the site reveals the cause for each violation (for instance: “Food worker does not wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, coughing, sneezing, smoking, eating, preparing raw foods or otherwise contaminating hands.” or “Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.”)
An HDScores post about the system it built for Yelp suggests that “absolute comparisons” cannot be made between restaurants in different cities, because “each inspection jurisdiction has a different reporting methodology.”
But the feature should make it easier to see which restaurants and bars are more sanitary than others in the city you’re in, especially in locales where that information isn’t easily accessible online. While in some states you could always just check the score card displayed on the front of the establishment, now it should be easier to see if a spot you’ve been eyeing has a unsettling past.