One of the best parts of living in Vancouver is its restaurant culture. So many options, so many styles, and something at a price for everyone.
But we’ve all wondered what’s going on behind the scenes. Are they clean? What’s their health inspection record?
The information is available — but not easy to read. That was, until now. A Vancouver company has just launched a new app that puts the power of the health inspector in the palm of your hand.
LISTEN: Foodspect creator explains how it works
Earl Buchan is the co-founder of app maker FoodSpect. We spoke with him a few months ago, but with his app going live last night we decided to check back in with him about how it works and why it could change the way you dine.
All of the information you can get in the app is publicly available. But if you’ve ever gone to a local health authority’s website to find it, you’ll know it’s not exactly easy to dig up.
Buchan says his idea was to change that by making checking a restaurant’s record easy to do when you’re out and about by crunching that data into a searchable, easy to digest form.
“For those of us who do not want to end up on the toilet for the rest of the evening after we eat out, we want to have something where we can look before we get to the restaurant, not when we’re at home sitting at our computers sleuthing through hours and hours of governmental websites.”
He says the idea isn’t to threaten restaurants, but rather to give people the power of informed dining. Consumers can see success stories – restaurants that might have had a violation, then cleaned up their act… and weed out the repeat offenders.
He admits it’s not perfect. A violator that, say, changes its name might get away with it for a while because there can be a lag from the renaming to the publication of the latest health inspector data.
But he says they’re looking to work on issue like that by eventually allowing diners to submit feedback.
“That’s one of the things we’re working on for our next revision, is user feedback so this can be a user based community, becauase this is really the democratization of data that’s already out there and putting it in consumers’ hands.”
Buchan says the app is now live across the province, and they’re looking to expand.
“If there’s been a place that’s been inspected. We’re now working on the greater Toronto area. And our plan is to roll it out across Canada as well.”
Restaurateurs give thumbs up
The head of B.C.’s restaurant industry association says he welcomes the new app.
Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Foodservice association says it could help the industry keep up its A-Game.
“If we have a restaurant industry that is not up to standards in so many ways, then we’re going to be in trouble as an industry. So, this is just going to keep everybody’s due dilligence. It really reinforces in my opinion how important those elements are.”
But he says diners need to keep in mind, not all infractions are created equal.
“Say, for example, it was a cooling problem. The freezers weren’t at their correct temperature. Well, it could have been because the freezers weren’t at their correct temperature. So you’ve got to make sure it’s in context. If you’re seeing a restaurant that’s got cleanliness problems, and food handling problems, and rodent problems, then I think that’s probably a big message to stay away.”
Tostenson says while there are always a few problem operators, the vast majority of serious restaurateurs take cleanliness seriously.