Open Data Connects Restaurant Inspections with Yelp


Cary, NC — In a pioneering effort, Wake County is now publishing data about restaurant inspection scores on the social review website Yelp.

Open Data Connects Restaurant Inspections with Yelp

Sometimes, people have trouble understanding the concept of Open Data. Sometimes, data scientists have trouble explaining it.

But here’s a simple example:

Wake County has restaurant inspection data. Why can’t we mash it together with a restaurant review site like Yelp?

That is exactly what has happened in Wake County, according to a new report on TechnologyTank.

LIVES Open Data Standard

From Tech Tank:

Wake County is one of four early adopters of the LIVES data standard – an open data standard which allows municipalities to publish restaurant inspection information that can be consumed by apps like Yelp.

Developed by Code for America  in collaboration with the City of San Francisco and Yelp, the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES) is an open data standard which allows municipalities to publish restaurant inspection information to Yelp or any other website.

Wake County Leads the Way

The Wake County CIO, Bill Greeves, learned of the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES) pilot program at a leadership conference and recognized this as an example of transparency in government. Wake County already had the restaurant inspection data available. Being able to share this data with an audience that might be interested in it in the best way possible seemed like a natural fit.

“Providing easier access to that information is really what it’s all about,” said Greeves.

Greeves gathered a small team including Andre Pierce, Angela Strickland and Chris Mathews to investigate and implement this exciting new approach to sharing restaurant inspection data. The team worked directly with the technical and marketing personnel at Yelp to develop the necessary data extracts. Some data was in dissimilar formats or had to be scaled to match the levels of the LIVES standard. Chris Mathews explained the value of this data standard:

“LIVES affords the ability of scores across separate jurisdictions to mean the same thing – a score of 93 in Raleigh means the same thing as a 93 in San Francisco”.

Durham & New Hanover Join Up

Within six weeks, Wake County was ready to publish the restaurant inspections on Yelp. A launch strategy was planned including local news and social media to announce the availability of Wake’s health scores on Yelp.

The interest generated from making restaurant inspections available led to Durham County and New Hanover County (Wilmington) to begin working to adopt the LIVES standard in their counties. With these 2 counties coming on board, the Triangle (and Eastern North Carolina) will be the first region in the country to adopt the LIVES Open Data standard. Code for Durham, the Durham Code for America Brigade, was also sparked to incorporate the LIVES reporting standard in their development of a local restaurant application celebrating Durham as the South’s Tastiest Town!

Open Data as a Growth Industry

Wake County hopes to use the LIVES project and others like it to inform both the public and government sectors of the value of Open Data and Open Government as they launch a more comprehensive Open Data Program.

Wake County is looking to release more data and to work with local startups and recognized industry leaders to develop applications to improve the lives of Wake County citizens.

Award Winning Department

The Wake County IS Department is well recognized for their innovative efforts, recently receiving a Pinnacle Award for best local government website by the National Association of Government Web Professionals. See all their awards on the Wake County IS Department Website.


Story by Ian Henshaw, edited by Hal Goodtree. Chris Mathews also contributed to the story. Read the original series on TechTank (Part 1 and Part 2).

2 replies

Comments are closed.