Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Restaurant Ratings - The Good and the Bad

I've long urged the City of Richardson to improve the usability of the work done by its Health Department in inspecting restaurants. They can get back in the kitchen. The public usually can't.

Things I'd like to see:
  • The health department rating displayed in each restaurant's front window. To its credit, the city has worked with Yelp to display a city health department rating for each restaurant along with other info such as address, map, and contact info. Kudos for this, but I'd like to see the rating when I walk in the door.
  • Inspection ratings incorporated in all promotional material the city provides for restaurants (e.g., its "Dine Smart, Dine Local" advertising)
  • A better presentation of the health inspection ratings on the city's own website
Recently, the city made some efforts on the third item. I took a look.

If you don't have an email subscription to the City of Richardson's Week in Review, get one. According to a recent edition:
This week the Richardson Health Department began publishing complete health inspection reports online in an effort to increase transparency and enhance the restaurant inspection information already available.

Copies of reports from all inspections per dining facility are available, and the database is searchable by restaurant name as well as by date. Any facility that prepares and serves hot or cold food items within the city limits is included, including convenience stores, department store caf├ęs, schools, senior living facilities and corporate cafeterias.

The searchable database can be found by visiting
Good for the city. Now, a few friendly suggestions.

The alphabetical list of restaurants (View by Name) should also include their addresses. Did you know there are eight 7-Elevens in Richardson? Fifty points if you can say which 7-Eleven is the one you are looking for without clicking on them one by one until you find it. Is it "7-Eleven #12175"? That should be easily fixed.

Worse, the "View by Date" identifies the restaurants by their street address only. The restaurant names are hidden behind another click. Unless you are very familiar with Richardson's street numbering scheme, good luck finding the restaurant you want without a lot of clicking. That should be easily fixed.

I can't believe it's only me, but what I'm most interested in is a list of restaurants sorted by score. In particular, I'd to see the restaurants rated as "marginal" because of low score. As far as I can tell, I can sort the results by restaurant name, by address, by date of inspection, but I can't sort by score. That should be easily fixed, but somehow I doubt that's a programming oversight. For whatever reason, it's unacceptable to make it hard to identify restaurants with low health inspection ratings.

Missing altogether is what might be the most convenient presentation style of all: a map. Give us a Google Maps display with icons for all the restaurants in the database, preferably with inspection rating in the icon itself. Let us scroll and zoom to find restaurants near us.

I don't mean to be critical. The data is there. That's good. You just have to hunt for it. That's bad. It could and should be more convenient. How about it, Richardson?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree with you more on all these points. The data is ridiculously hard to navigate.

I've visited places that require the score placed on the front window. It seemed to me they were more motivated to score well when they have to wear it.

Making this data more available seems like a very easy way to improve public health.

One of my favorite restaurants got a fairly poor score in Feb '17 which says it "expired" in June '17 yet they don't seem to have been reinspected and it's now well past June. It seems like there is room for improvement on actually getting the inspections done as well.