The Effect of Information Salience on Product Quality: Louisville Restaurant Hygiene and

In June 2013, Louisville, Kentucky, announced plans to provide restaurant health inspection data to for publication on their popular consumer-review website. These data were already publicly available on the city's website. I utilize this partnership to test whether an increase in the salience of disclosed quality information on a particular product attribute, induces producers to improve product quality along that dimension. Consumers use Yelp to gather information on many characteristics of a restaurant's product. They depend less on Yelp to learn about chain-affiliated restaurants, because much of this information is conveyed through the chain's reputation. Using over 17,000 restaurant health inspections from Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, I find that this increased salience caused substantial hygiene improvements among independent Louisville restaurants across three different counterfactual models. Among independent Louisville restaurants, estimates suggest the partnership caused anywhere from a 9-14% relative decrease in inspection score point deductions, with the effect being entirely evident in restaurants' first inspections following the partnership's announcement. Relative to the rest of Kentucky, I find that the partnership significantly reduced rates of severe food poisoning in Louisville.