Full inspection histories of all King County restaurants have been available online since 2001. For the past 16 years, inspection results could be searched on a website that, we admit, was starting to show its age. That’s why we partnered with King County Information Technology (KCIT) to create a restaurant inspection search tool to go along with our brand new Food Safety Rating System. We have always valued making information available to the public and this new search tool makes it even easier to find information to make informed decisions when eating out.
We sat down with Alex Aragon and Beth Cheatham, from the KCIT team that created the search tool, to talk about the process of developing the tool and all of its cool features.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what King County IT does?
Beth: Alex and I are on the eGovernment team. Our team is a small subset of KCIT. We focus on modern web development and content design to help members of the public get the information they need in a way that makes sense for them.
How did you create the search tool?
Beth: Alex and I worked on the design and development of the new search tool. As we were building the tool, we thought a lot about how we would want to use it as a member of the dining public. We wanted a tool that diners could use before, after or even during a visit to a restaurant. We also incorporated feedback that Public Health – Seattle & King County gathered from public meetings on what information people wanted and how they wanted to see it.
Another team of KCIT developers built the application Food Inspectors use on their computers in the field to rate restaurants. Inspectors enter inspection data that automatically feeds the restaurant’s food safety rating into the search tool we built.
How do I use the search tool and what information can I find?
Beth: The search tool is easy to use. Look up a restaurant by typing at least two letters into the search bar. Then click the magnifying glass to start the search.
Alex: Restaurants matching the search will pop up below the search bar. You can see the restaurant’s name, address, food safety rating and where they are located on the map.
Alex: Next, click “History” to view a restaurant’s full inspection results.
Beth: You can see inspection type, date and what violations the restaurant has if any.
Alex: There are three types of inspections: routine inspection, consultation/education inspection and a return inspection. Routine inspections are the unannounced inspections that restaurants receive on average 1-3 times per year; these inspections are used to determine a restaurant’s food safety rating.
Restaurants can request consultation/education inspections. During these inspections the Food Inspector and restaurant staff discuss food safety practices and how the restaurant can improve.
Food Inspectors conduct return inspections when a restaurant has over 35 violation points after a routine inspection. During these inspections the Food Inspectors make sure that all food safety issues have been addressed. If a restaurant has 90 violation points they will typically be closed and only allowed to reopen after a return inspection.
Click the plus sign to see the violations the restaurant received.
Beth: The drop down will show you if the violation was a red critical violation or a maintenance & sanitation violation. In the new rating system, only red critical violations are used to determine a restaurant’s rating. The drop down also shows the number of points associated with each violation.
What’s your favorite feature of the search tool?
Alex: The search tool has a lot of really useful features. For example, each restaurant has a unique URL so you can bookmark a favorite restaurant to stay up-to-date on the restaurant’s inspection results without having to go back to the search function and search for that restaurant again.
Is the search tool complete or is there more to come?
Beth: We are constantly looking for ways to make the search tool better. We want to be responsive to customer feedback, so we definitely want to keep adding more features.
Alex: In the future, we want to add filtering capabilities that allow you to search by rating category and a feature that will allow diners to use their device’s geo-location to find a restaurant.
Do you think the search tool will help people make informed decisions about food safety?
Beth: The team and I hope the new search tool will give the public an easy and fun way to get the information they need to make informed decisions about where they eat. I also hope that it will encourage restaurant operators to continue to promote food safety in their restaurant every day.
Do you plan on using the search tool yourself when going out to eat?
Alex: Absolutely. I don’t always think of food safety ratings before I go out to eat. But, once I’m at a restaurant and I see a food safety rating in the window, it’s extremely useful to pull out my phone and get inspection information that’s up-to-date in an easy to understand way.
Restaurants will be added into the search tool after they receive their food safety rating when they are routinely inspected. The new system is rolling out across King County in four phases throughout 2017. Phase two (restaurants in Seattle (South of Interstate 90), Vashon, Bellevue, Mercer Island, New Castle and Renton) started earlier this week. In the meantime, while restaurants are being added, you can continue to find all inspection results in our old system.
Originally posted on April 19, 2017