Do health scores matter to you when you're making a dining decision? Maybe if they were easier to find they would. While restaurants in other cities, including New York and L.A., are required to display their scores prominently outside the building, the restaurants in and around Dallas have much more relaxed reporting requirements.
That's one of the reasons Frisco resident Noel Geren is betting that smartphone users will appreciate easier access to these scores. His new app, FoodFumble, makes restaurant health inspection scores available to anyone with an iPhone (and soon Android phones, too). The app displays scores of various formats (some cities use numbers, others letters) and converts them to simple plate icons that are easy to understand.
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There are a few caveats, though.
For one, Geren has only set up his app to pull scores from databases in Allen, McKinney, Frisco, Plano, Richardson, Carrollton, Irving and Grayson County. Geren says he's working to add new cities every day, but each city makes the restaurant data available in slightly different ways. Dallas should be available on his app soon, but has a notoriously awful database that's hard to search. Addison doesn't make that data available at all.
Geren isn't the first person with the idea to improve access to these scores. Yelp made news when they offered health inspection scores of restaurants in San Francisco earlier this year. At that time the online review site promised New York City and Philadelphia would be the next two cities, but it looks like they've only managed to provide the data for restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky so far.
While some diners may have no interest in a restaurant's health inspection score, there are certainly some diners who would make decisions based on the information, and accessibility is being pushed as a health concern. A 2005 study demonstrated a 13 percent decrease in food-borne illness after L.A. forced its restaurateurs to prominently display their scores. It makes you wonder why cities like Addison wouldn't do everything they can to make that data as available to as many people as possible.