Yelp Gets A Lot Of Critical Data On Restaurants

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This was announced last week, but it kind of flew under the radar. Yelp has formed an open data partnership with Socrata to distribute restaurant inspection information. The companies are calling it a strategic partnership aimed at helping improve public health conditions around the world.

Yelp becomes a new member of the Open Data Network, and teams up with Socrata's government customers, which will get tools for connecting their restaurant inspection data to Yelp. According to Socrata, most cities throughout the U.S. aren't publishing such data in a format that can be consumed by B2C services like Yelp, and this will supposedly change that.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Socrata and its network of partners to make this valuable information more accessible to the millions of people that turn to Yelp every month," said Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. "This was a joint effort as part of Yelp’s Local Inspector Value Entry Specification (LIVES) open data standard, which enables local municipalities to accurately upload restaurant health inspection scores for display on Yelp business pages.”

“We are very excited to launch this partnership with Yelp, the global leader in crowd-sourced reviews for local businesses,” said Socrata CEO Kevin Merritt. "With this behind-the-scenes data integration, millions of people will be able to benefit from better health information, which will ultimately improve their lives.”

Two years ago, Yelp started showing health scores on listings in San Francisco and New York City. In the meantime it has begun doing so in other areas as various municipalities have adopted LIVES.

Last May, Yelp was actually able to help health officials in New York find hundreds of cases of food borne illness. Fox News reported at the time:

Researchers involved in a pilot project between the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Columbia University and Yelp trawled the site for reviews that included words like "sick," "vomit," "diarrhea" and "food poisoning," between July 2012 and March 2013.

Roughly 294,000 Yelp reviews were analyzed, and researchers found 468 posts that were consistent with cases of recent food borne illnesses. Only 15 of those cases had been independently reported to the health department.

Yelp is always under fire from small businesses claiming that the quality of reviews being displayed about their business doesn't represent popular opinion. Yelp's small business evangelist Darnell Holloway reportedly told Fortune that they "tend to be 'perfectionists' who expect nothing less than the elusive five-star rating."

Health inspection data, however, is something that consumers can look at without having to take the word of random Yelp users. Now Yelp will have a great deal more of that data.

"Love it or hate it, Yelp is becoming more and more part of civic digital infrastructure across the nation," says Michael Grass at Government Executive.

As he notes, the New York City Department of Transportation has also been experimenting with using Yelp data in its iRideNYC app.

Last week, Yelp announced that it hit a major milestone with over 100,000 developers using its API to integrate its data into their products. This is something of a wake-up call to businesses that regardless of whether or not potential customers are going to Yelp's website or app, there's a good chance they'll run into listings in some other way.

More on LIVES here.

Image via Thinkstock

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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