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CleanScores: "The Zagat of Restaurant Hygiene"

Anyone who's spent any time in southern California can tell you about the "grade cards" on public display in Los Angeles and San Diego restaurants. The San Francisco restaurant lobby shot down a similar system here, instead compromising to post their health inspection scores on an obscure, user-unfriendly municipal site that gets very little traffic. Thus was CleanScores born.

A privately-funded company (for now), CleanScores already has quite the plan afoot:

It wants to be the Zagat’s [sic] of restaurant hygiene and make food safety a major factor when people decide where to eat.

To this end, it is creating a system to standardize and score hygiene reports across the country and has designed big blue placards. These placards feature a restaurant’s health rating in bold and, CleanScores, which is starting in SF, sent a handful of them out to various well-rated restaurants in San Francisco’s Cole Valley neighborhood. According to the company, 80 percent of these target restaurants put the placards up on their windows.

An admirable goal, indeed: bringing hidden hygiene education to the masses, while increasing business for clean restaurants. A win-win situation, right?

Ah, but if it only stopped there ...

[CleanScores founder Guy Michlin] hopes to gain distribution for the ratings by sending out a round of free placards to select restaurants in the city, and pushing the ratings to sites like Yelp! and Citysearch. The idea is that once enough prominent restaurants display the placards, those without them will be pressured to follow suit.

Eventually, the thinking goes, the placards will be so prolific that restaurants without them will draw suspicion.

CleanScores then intends to charge participatants a yearly subscription Each placard will be valid for three months, and will say so prominently, pushing restaurants to keep current.

Nevermind that cost-conscious restaurants might be hard-pressed to shell out extra dollars for the unofficial placards—or that San Francisco restaurants aren't even inspected every three months—the "first one's free, but the second one'll cost ya" attitude just seems a bit ... manipulative?
· CleanScores tells you if your favorite restaurant is clean [VentureBeat]
· CleanScores [cleanscores.com]

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