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Douglas County's restaurant ratings map now online

Douglas County's restaurant ratings map now online

A little garlic and sun-dried tomatoes can really give your green beans a kick.

Foodies seeking ratings for that new Omaha restaurant around the corner used to have to scroll through an online file with a long list of dining establishments.

With the help of Douglas County GIS, the Douglas County Health Department has launched a searchable restaurant inspection ratings map on its website where would-be diners can view color-coded ratings.

When the map pops up, a user first sees colored dots representing all 2,500 restaurants in Douglas County. The colored dots — which denote superior, excellent, standard, fair and below minimum standards ratings — represent the most current ratings from the latest health department inspection.

The frequency of inspections depends on the complexity of the preparation process. A full-service restaurant, where everything is prepared from scratch and requires proper handling and temperatures, is inspected every six months. A convenience store, where most foods are packaged, is inspected every 18 months.

Joe Gaube, supervisor of food safety and compliance with the health department, said the new map was “100% driven by the public” and came in response to users’ desire for a more user-friendly, searchable system than the database the department previously had. And rather than being buried in the health department’s website, like the old database, the map is front and center on the website’s front page.

The idea for the upgrade came as the health department was switching from one digital inspection system to another. During a meeting with Douglas County GIS, Gaube said, he threw out the idea of a more responsive system. He credited Nataliya Lys and Michael Schonlau for making it happen.

After the map launched in mid-July, he said, the developers fine-tuned it, placing food trucks and schools in separate lists.

Users can filter by rating, search for a restaurant or type in an address and zoom in on a location to see the restaurants in the area. The site is updated every two weeks. And those who like to scroll through lists still can download a PDF and flip through all 72 pages of restaurants and ratings.

The map also functions on mobile phones, although it can’t be downloaded like an app. It looks a little different, he said, but all of the functions are the same.

For now, users can’t pull up inspection reports, Gaube said. But that is something the department is considering as it develops new ordinances and a new rating system. Gaube eventually would like an “ABC” rating system because everyone understands what the letters mean.

“It’s just a very good tool,” Gaube said, “depending on how you want to use it.”

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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