The restaurant review site Yelp unveiled a new feature this October — one that is sure to win friends among consumers and make (even more) enemies among restaurant owners. The new feature updates a restaurant's landing page, going from simply displaying the spot's food safety score — something Yelp already does — to publicly shaming San Francisco's least clean restaurants with prominent warnings.
The Yelp page of any restaurant residing in the bottom 5 percent of food safety ratings for San Francisco will now be overlaid with a pop-up "consumer alert" warning of the "poor food safety score."
"Did you know that local officials inspect food service facilities to improve food safety?" the message begins. "Following a recent inspection, this facility received a food safety rating that is in the bottom 5% locally, and is categorized by inspectors as 'poor.'"
"Being in the consumer protection business, we care a lot about your safety and will display this alert for six months or until we receive a significantly improved food safety rating for this business," the warning concludes.
As of now, the feature is only live in San Francisco, but it is expected to be expanded nationwide.
SF Weekly reached out to a manager at Sinbad's about the notice, but he didn't seem too concerned.
"We've been here 40 years," the manager told SF Weekly. "Yelp doesn't affect business."
In conversation with The Washington Post, the Vice President of Public Policy at Yelp, Luther Lowe, explained the thinking behind the company's move to prominently display health warnings.
"Yelp’s job is to predict in an online way the experience consumers can expect will happen in the offline world," said Lowe. "To the extent that we can augment the consumer opinions and ratings that our users rely on with government data that they’re creating with their tax dollars — that’s a great win-win."
At the very least, this new feature may force beleaguered kitchen managers to clean up their acts — or see their business head somewhere that doesn't come with a warning label.