Lexington restaurant health scores used by Yelp
News release from Feb 2016:
Yelp and OpenLexington partner to improve food safety in Lexington
Lexington-Fayette County Health Department food establishment inspection scores will now appear in local Yelp listings
Lexington, KY - February 22, 2016 — OpenLexington is the volunteer tech group behind GetHelpLex.org and WhatsMyDistrict.org. Today they announced a partnership with Yelp, the company that connects consumers with great local businesses. Together they will make restaurant inspection scores available at the touch of button. Now, the Health Department’s scores will appear on Yelp.com alongside restaurant hours, photos, and reviews.
“It’s great to see the city of Lexington prioritizing open data and sharing health scores for local restaurants on Yelp,” said Luther Lowe, VP Public Policy at Yelp. “Millions of people are already searching on Yelp every day for information on restaurants and other businesses, so it makes sense to bring this information to them as they’re making a buying decision.”
OpenLexington's goal is to help people make decisions and increase food safety in Lexington. As founding member Chase Southard noted, “The Health Department works hard to visit every food establishment in the city. We’re pleased that they make the scores available for re-use like this. It adds a lot of value to the great work they do.”
The Health Department posts inspection scores to their website. At a hackathon event, several members of OpenLexington started with a question: How could they make that spreadsheet of scores even more useful? Could the scores appear on Yelp, where Lexingtonians already look for restaurant information?
Yelp had the answer: a common format for inspection scores. The technical name is the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES). Thanks to the specification, any city can post their scores for inclusion on Yelp.com. OpenLexington wrote a small program that does the work. It transforms the Health Department spreadsheet into the LIVES format. Before long the project was off and running.
Lexington is in good company with San Francisco, Boulder, Louisville, and many other cities. They all use LIVES to post inspection scores to Yelp. Erik Schwartz of OpenLexington says, “It shows the power of open data formats. It means that any city can take part in a great program like this with minimal effort.”
OpenLexington keeps up with initiatives like this as a Code for America Brigade member. The Brigade program is an international community of local volunteer groups. They share code and ideas with each other in effort to use technology for social good.