How Food Inspections Affect Yelp Reviews

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Other Interesting Things We Learned...

** Major Categories of Offence **

  • Clean: Keeping the place and equipments clean
  • Cold: Keeping the perishable products below certain temperature
  • Hot: Keeping the warm dishes heated above certain temperature
  • Fraud: Not falsifying information about the food product
  • Information: Indicating proper information about the food product

...And most importantly,

  • Maple: Must be exclusively made from maple sap, must not have disagreeable odour, must not smell funny, etc etc...

We sure take maple syrup seriously...! But not to worry, very few establishments had maple-related violations!

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What We Found

1) Some neighbourhoods have more frequent food inspection violations than others.

2) Overall, these violations are followed by a dip in the reviews, but it generally goes back up again after a year or so.

3) The dip is more prominent in restaurants with more severe violations (indicated by heavier fines, >3K$), and they generally don't show much sign of improvement afterwards.

4) Some restaurants with less severe violations (fines <3K$) actually improve their ratings afterwards, and they tend to be concentrated in Plateau area.


  • When violations are severe, reviews go down probably because information can spread through reviewers who may learn about the violations through news outlet, but the effect is not long-lasting.

  • When it's less severe, it's less likely that the reviewers know about it, and it may actually improve reviews by prompting the owners of the restaurant to improve.

  • Making the inspection results visible (not just violations but also any improvements at follow-up) would give incentives for business owners to improve, and help customers avoid making bad choices.

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What We Did

Some cities in North America requires restaurants to visibly post their food inspection grades. While the city of Montreal has the food inspection records publicly available, it's not very accessible to the customers who might benefit from the information the most.

We wanted to see how many of the restaurants reviewed in Yelp has the history of hygiene and other violations, and how the reviews may reflect them.

We looked at temporal changes in reviews prior to and following food-related violations to see if some restaurants may show signs of improvement after the inspection.

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