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Yelp partners with city health departments; New real estate technologies

A letter grade from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene appears in every restaruant in the city.

When you're online searching for restaurants, how do you pick? Cuisine, price, and now, food safety? There was a time when in Los Angeles you couldn't even get that information at the restaurant, according to Luther Lowe, the director of public policy at Yelp, which specializes in local online searches.

"Through the nineties, up until about '97, L.A. would just send the letter grade to the restaurant owners, and they'd say, 'Great,' and maybe just throw it into a drawer. There were no laws that said, 'Okay, you have to hang this on your storefront,'" explains Lowe. "Then they changed the law, and within two years, you had the majority of restaurants actually get 'A' and 'B' scores -- so industry standards raised across the bar -- and you there was a dramatic reduction in hospitalization due to food-borne illness."

Now Yelp is partnering with some big city mayors to mix in the health department scores with its online restaurant listings.

"This will include every restaurant in San Francisco in the coming weeks, and in the weeks beyond that the city of New York; and we hope to roll out in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, other major municipalities around the U.S. -- and any other cities that sign the pledge at FoodInspectionData.org," says Lowe.  

A few eateries already have their scores next to their Yelp listing, including the Delessio Market and Bakery in San Francisco, which got an impressive 94 out of 100 rating from the inspectors.
 
"I'd prefer a hundred percent," says Michael Beachnau, Delessio's director of ops. Even with that fine number, he doesn't put much stock in the scores. "I'm more of the kind of person that would walk into a restaurant and walk into their bathroom first, because however they're handling their bathroom is how they're handling everying else."

If a 94 isn't enough for you, Delessio also offers Yucatan pork stew with achiote and white hominy.


The National Association of Realtors is looking for a few good tech startups. The real estate folks are behind a program called REach that wants to take under its wing a half dozen or so young tech companies. 

The managing director of the program, Constance Freedman, says the first one has just been picked, a Colorado outfit called BombBomb. "It's a video email marketing company. What they allow you to do is take a video from any device, and it allows you to email it, and send it, and the recipient can open it from any device," says Freedman.

"So we often see that there's a problem today with videos being too large or formatted in such ways that you can't open or send on certain devices. This takes away that complication."
 
Freedman wants startups that have a product that's ready for prime time, not just in the idea phase. In the past, REach has helped give a boost to Docusign, which lets people sign official papers digitally.

"We're going to bring in companies that have significant potential, both in the real estate space, but also that are applicable in multiple industries," says Freedman. "What we're going to do is really roll up our sleeves and help them grow in the real estate industry."

The realtors group has a million members, many who are hungry for tech to keep ahead in a quickly changing industry. The deadline for startups to apply is next week, the 25th. Here's a link.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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