Be careful, restaurant owners: That bad online review of your chicken alfredo or California roll may lead to more serious consequences than previously imagined.
Using a software program developed by Columbia University, officials from New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently completed a pilot project in which they combed through approximately 294,000 Yelp reviews to help identify outbreaks of food-borne illness and diseases that might otherwise have gone undetected.
The software program is designed to search for words like “vomit,” “sick,” “diarrhea,” etc.; after thorough investigation, the researchers have so far found three food poisoning outbreaks involving 16 people. In case you were wondering: these people ate house salad, shrimp and lobster cannelloni, and macaroni and cheese spring rolls at three unidentified restaurants in NYC.
“We know we don’t identify all of the outbreaks that are out there, and this is just another tool to do that,” said senior investigator Sharon Balter. “In any surveillance system like this, there will be a lot of noise. The exciting thing for us is we could sort through that noise and find actual cases.”
The agency will continue the project and explore the possibility of monitoring restaurant reviews posted from other review sites, too (and not just Yelp).
About half of all local food poisoning outbreaks occur at restaurants, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These could be caused by cross contamination, bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food, or improper storage and sanitation.
If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s time to step up your sanitation game and take all steps necessary to prevent cases of food poisoning and illnesses. Yelp has already added health inspection scores to listings of restaurants in New York, San Francisco, and LA. Not only could a dirty kitchen and badly sanitized workplace blemish your online reputation, it could also produce brutal online reviews that could alert local health officials.
If you’re in need of a software program to help YOU track those restaurant reviews, have a look at what ReviewTrackers has to offer. Our online review monitoring and reputation management tool allows you to collect, aggregate, analyze, and manage all your restaurant’s reviews from all major review sites. You can click here for a free trial or call (866) 854-7670 for more information.