Nav: Home

Customer reviews and health inspections drive consistent good hygiene at restaurants

January 13, 2020

INFORMS Journal Information Systems Research New Study Key Takeaways:
  • Online restaurant reviews in addition to periodic health inspections is key to continuous good hygiene at restaurants.
  • Roughly 30% of all restaurants in New York City deteriorate in terms of their hygiene within 90 days of certification from the health departments.
  • More frequent health inspections are not feasible given the growing number of establishments.
CATONSVILLE, MD, January 13, 2020 - Eating out, ordering in or carrying out? Most Americans indulge in some form of restaurant eating. Consumers believe that cleanliness at these establishments is a key factor in determining where they satisfy their cravings.

While the local health department may make sure inspections are kept up to date, with so many new and existing restaurants, it can be hard to stay on top of them all. In New York City alone, there are 20,000 restaurants. New research in the INFORMS journal Information Systems Research says using online reviews from the average person can help keep things in check.

The study, "A for Effort? Using the Crowd to Identify Moral Hazard in New York City Restaurant Hygiene Inspections," looks at hygiene inspections at New York City restaurants from 2010-2016 alongside the associated set of online reviews for the same set of restaurants from Yelp.

Health inspection programs are designed to protect consumers. They typically occur at long intervals of time, allowing restaurant hygiene to remain unmonitored in the interim. This research finds online reviews may be effective to gauge restaurant hygiene during these periods.

"Online reviews of restaurants can effectively identify cases of hygiene violations even after the restaurants have been inspected and certified, thereby identifying moral hazard," said Shawn Mankad, one of the study authors, from Cornell University.

Online reviews of restaurants can provide city regulators with information that can help identify restaurants that are likely to be at risk for important hygiene violations even after receiving high hygiene grades. They can also pinpoint restaurants that are consistently diligent about their hygiene practices.

Mankad, along with Jorge Mejia of Indiana University and Anand Gopal of the University of Maryland, develop a social-media-based dictionary that captures the observed counts of hygiene-related words within online reviews of restaurants.

"Based on the dictionary word counts, we find that roughly 30% of all restaurants in New York City deteriorate in terms of their hygiene within 90 days of certification from the health department," continued Mankad.

"Augmenting the hygiene inspection regime with information from online reviews would enhance the effectiveness of these inspections long term."

Inspecting restaurants is costly and time-consuming and real-time changes in hygiene quality are difficult to observe through infrequent inspections. Continuous monitoring is not possible.

"Traditional techniques to detect and prevent moral hazard, such as rigorous inspections and a strong set of incentives, contribute toward decreasing these inefficiencies in the market," said Mankad. "However, we believe that techniques of text analysis within the domain of machine learning, alongside access to crowd-sourced data from online review platforms such as Yelp, can further enhance the efficacy of hygiene inspections."
About INFORMS and Information Systems Research

Information Systems Research is a premier peer-reviewed scholarly journal focused on the latest theory, research and intellectual development to advance knowledge about the effective and efficient utilization of information technology. It is published by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. More information is available at or @informs.

Ashley Smith

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

Related Consumers Articles:

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.
Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.
Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.
When consumers don't want to talk about what they bought
One of the joys of shopping for many people is the opportunity to brag about their purchases to friends and others.
As consumers, how do we decide what's 'best' when it's not clear?
Imagine you are choosing between two resorts for your island vacation.
Effects of ethnocentrism on consumers
Aitor Calvo-Turrientes, winner of the prize for End-of-Degree Project in Sustainability in 2015 awarded by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz, is the author of the paper 'The valuation and purchase of food products that combine local, regional and traditional features: The influence of consumer ethnocentrism,' published recently by the prestigious journal Food Quality and Preference.
Organic consumers mean business
Groundbreaking research from Aarhus BSS shows that organic consumers are standing fast and are buying more and more organic products following an increasingly predictable pattern.
Perfect mannequins a turnoff for some consumers
Mannequins' long legs, tiny waistlines and perfect busts can sour some shoppers on the products they're wearing, especially consumers who don't like the look of their own bodies.
What's in a name? For young Chinese consumers, it's about culture mixing
Younger, more cosmopolitan Chinese consumers tend to favor brand translations that keep both the sound and the meaning of the original name, says U. of I. business professor and branding expert Carlos J.
Why do consumers participate in 'green' programs?
From recycling to reusing hotel towels, consumers who participate in a company's 'green' program are more satisfied with its service, finds a new study co-led by a Michigan State University researcher.
More Consumers News and Consumers Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at