Professional Development

Philly food fight: Inky’s ‘Clean Plates’ digs in to restaurant health records

The database launched just five weeks after City Paper published its restaurant evaluations. Who will emerge the victor? Does it matter?

There are now three options for checking in on the cleanliness of Philly eateries.

(Photo by Flickr user Matt MacGillivray, used under a Creative Commons license)

For the second time in five weeks, local media has raised the bar for Philly’s food industry by publishing health inspection data.
Last month, City Paper introduced its food inspection database, which consolidates five years of public food safety data for 3,800 regional restaurants into one searchable platform. Each restaurant is awarded points in accordance with the paper’s very own point system. But as of late last week, City Paper is no longer the lone local publication in the restaurant inspection game.
Clean Plates, the Inquirer’s “exclusive” take on the same food inspection data, is slightly more user-friendly and visually appealing than its competitor. Maybe that’s why City Paper Editor-in-Chief Lillian Swanson’s criticism, in a post titled “Inquirer changes definition of ‘exclusive’,” harped on the choice of phrase in Inky’s announcement rather than the product itself. Or maybe it’s just a case of firstborn syndrome.
Who will emerge the victor in this new power struggle for food inspection data dominance?
It doesn’t matter.
Either way, data that’s been made public is in no way “exclusive” information. Neither City Paper nor the Inquirer have any kind of ownership over the actual numbers — it’s a matter of efficacy. Who can republish the data most efficiently? Who’s using the information to promote health standards in the local market? Who just wants the bragging rights?
It’s important for both papers to remember that Baltimore-based app HDScores launched this past October. The startup takes advantage of the same Philly food inspection data, and you can use it on your phone. Plus, this information is their forte.
Regardless, competition stimulates progress.
And to quote Ben Franklin, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” The arrival of Clean Plates is healthy for everyone: healthy for City Paper’s product, healthy for the Inquirer, but most healthy for the consumers who just learned their favorite taco shop has 27 food-borne illness violations over the past three years.

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