Digitizing Disclosure: The Case of Restaurant Hygiene Scores
30 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2018 Last revised: 13 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 2018
Collaborating with Yelp and the City of San Francisco, we revisit a canonical example of quality disclosure by evaluating and helping to redesign the posting of restaurant hygiene scores on Yelp.com. We implement a two-stage intervention that separately identifies consumer response to information disclosure and to disclosure design with improved salience. We find that posting hygiene scores on restaurants’ Yelp pages leads to a 12% decrease in purchase intentions for restaurants with low scores (as predefined by the City) relative to those with higher scores. We then create a “hygiene alert”—a message that appears only for low-score restaurants identified by the City as having “poor” operating conditions with “high-risk” hygiene violations (using the same low score threshold as above)—and find a further 7% decrease in purchase intentions. Moreover, the presence of an alert reduces the restaurant’s likelihood of getting a second alert. We conclude that disclosure policy should focus not only on what information to disclose but also on how and where to design disclosure.
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