It’s a stretch to say that posting restaurant inspection results – letter grades, color cards, numbers, smiley faces – affects much of anything because of the limitations involved in studying the question.
Do they make food safer?
Do managers pay attention and go crazy on staff when they get a lousy score?
Do consumers pay attention?
Given these exceedingly scientific answers, what I’ve observed over the past 15 years is that the biggest benefit of public disclosure is its role in the overall rise of food-safety-kind-that-makes-people-barf awareness.
Here’s another group having having-a-go at the role of inspections and disclosure.
Ensuring the safety of food served in restaurants continues to be an essential issue in the hospitality industry. An important part of the efforts to stem the outbreak of foodborne illnesses are the mandatory inspections of any entity that serves food to the public.
Unfortunately, while posting food safety scores is intended to help consumers make better dining choices, interpreting these scores can often be difficult and confusing. The purpose of this study is to use information processing theory as a framework to investigate how consumers evaluate food safety inspection scores. To achieve this goal, this research provides an account of the effect of food safety concern on consumers’ attitudes toward restaurants under conditions of both positive and negative health inspection results.
The results identify a moderating effect of health score in the formation of consumers’ attitudes toward restaurants. The downstream effects on expected satisfaction and behaviors are also established.
Understanding responses to posted restaurant food safety scores: An information processing and regulatory focus perspective
International Journal of Hospitality Management, Volume 60, January 2017, Pages 67–76
Kimberly J. Harris, Ed. D., Lydia Hanks, Ph. D., Nathaniel D. Line, Ph. D. and Sean McGinley, Ph. D.