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Yelp borrows a health inspector’s hat for restaurants

Restaurateurs who thought getting good recommendations on Yelp was good enough, have a new score to deal with: hygiene data from the health departments.

Yelp says the health inspection data will initially be provided in San Francisco and New York, and that it will be coming soon to restaurant reviews in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. In New York City, the A, B, C, fail or “pending’ grades that city residents have gotten used to seeing as postings on restaurants will go live on Yelp’s (NYSE: YELP) New York site within several weeks, company spokeswoman Stephanie Ichinose told the New York Post.

Currently, prospective diners have to navigate the city health department’s own website to find those grades or visit the restaurant in person to check it out.

Similarly, the popular review site will soon be posting grades for restaurants in San Francisco, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, which adds that other services that provide restaurant listings, like Google, TripAdvisor or CitySearch, could follow suit.

Currently, restaurants in San Francisco—where Yelp is based—do not have to publicly display the scores.

Yelp has 70 million users nationwide, so the results will be widely read. Critics, including the New York Restaurant Association, have been opposed to the letter-grade system since it was established in July 2010, saying the information is often out of date. They also protest the ominous-looking “grade pending” grade, which may simply indicate that a restaurant is fighting to improve its score.

From Yelp’s perspective, though, the additional data will step up pressure on establishments that receive low marks in health inspections

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Mystic Maggie

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