Yelp Supports Health & Safety with Hazel Analytics

Yelp wants you to dine out with health & safety in mind. Last week, it quietly rolled out an expanded partnership with food-tech startup Hazel Analytics. This will bring more health and safety ratings to Yelp,  expanding its SMB data and search filters in yet another direction (more on that in a bit).

Diving into the details, Hazel Analytics will provide hygiene data on 700,000 Yelp pages. This will pull from and list information from health jurisdictions that represent about 70 percent of the U.S. population. It also includes health department data from 48 states (up from four states previously).

Speaking of geographic coverage, this move also brings in Canadian health scores for the first time, with ratings from Toronto and Vancouver. Moreover, the timing is right for this deeper integration and geographic saturation as the world gradually returns to physical-world activity and dining.

“The expansion of Yelp’s health scores program comes at a time when people are returning to indoor dining as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift,” Yelp noted in a blog post. “Health inspections are bouncing back from the early pandemic pause, and restaurants continue to embrace diner safety measures like contactless payments and virtual menus.”

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As for Hazel’s methodology, it assembles health scores from publicly available data such as local health departments. Though this seems like a low barrier to entry given public sources, its value-add comes in the form of its data processing, cleansing, and output into human-readable formats.

It even injects its own software to fill gaps where there isn’t publically available data. For example, when a given health department doesn’t publish a score after conducting a health inspection (which happens apparently) Hazel Analytics estimates based on several other factors (think: Zillow for health ratings).

It should also be noted that Hazel Analytics already works with Yelp after a partnership last year brought inspection details to a smaller pool of Yelp restaurant listings. This move represents Hazel’s ongoing expansion from enterprise and municipal integrations to a consumer-facing outlet like Yelp.

“After years of providing award-winning technology solutions to enterprise food safety professionals, we’re now excited to partner with Yelp to make it easier for consumers to have access to local dining establishments’ public health inspection information,” Hazel CEO Arash Nasibi said in a statement.

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Ongoing Evolution

Back to Yelp’s ongoing content expansions, this is just the latest data integration that represents new local search use cases. The name of the game for local search and reviews players like Yelp is to process a mixture of structured data (addresses) and unstructured data (information buried in user reviews).

They’re both challenging to process and present. Processing involves lots of data science, often with best-of-breed partners. That’s what’s happening in this latest announcement, though sometimes Yelp buys or builds internally to achieve deeper business information in cases of core functionality.

As for the “present” part of the formula, the challenge there is to provide useful information to local searchers without cluttering the UX in a “paradox of choice.” Yelp has walked that fine line through things like search filters and other space-saving design moves that we’ll continue to see.

Speaking of expanded functionality and search filters, we’re sitting on some upcoming news that will break next week as Yelp continues rapid feature rollouts. We’ll circle back at that time to break it down.

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