If consumers had magic sunglasses that displayed the presence of Salmonella on chicken in the grocery store, there would be no need for government regulation. Immediately, faced with market consequences for distributing chicken with Salmonella, the companies would clean up their product.The Washington Post's Wonkblog this week reports on Yelp's San Francisco restaurant review site, which is conducting an experiment with the online equivalent of these magic sunglasses.
Yelp, the popular Web site that lets consumers review everything from bistros to body shops to yoga studios, quietly began running an experiment in San Francisco over the past week. The pages for a small fraction of the city's restaurants on the site now bear a new consumer alert.The warnings are shown for the review pages of restaurants that received very low scores from health inspectors. One feels bad for the restaurants, but this idea is intriguing. The National Restaurant Association mentioned concerns. Yet, if the inspections use standards that all restaurants really can satisfy, this ought to help consumers get access to safer and cleaner restaurants without doing the restaurants much lasting harm.