MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - What The Health, available for both iPhone and Android devices, links with state health departments' restaurant inspection databases. With 10 states on board so far (including Tennessee, Mississippi, but not Arkansas), the app uses your phone's locator services to pull up the latest health inspection scores of the first 100 restaurants within a two-mile radius. It also offers a search feature to look up a specific restaurant's health score.
WMC Action News 5 tested it in Downtown Memphis at the intersection of Monroe Avenue and Main St. It instantly pulled up the latest restaurant scores of the closest 100 restaurants, including DeJAVU, 51 S. Main St.
"It shows your score to be 98," I showed DeJAVU's owner and Executive Chef Gary Williams. Williams pulled his latest Shelby County Health Department inspection report right off the wall. Sure enough, it was the 98 displayed on What The Health.
We also tested the app against the health department's own inspection files at its headquarters, 814 Jefferson Ave. Time and time again, the information What The Health revealed on an establishment -- either through locator services or through its search feature -- matched the department's latest inspection report on that establishment. It also listed each establishment's violations from that inspection.
"I think it's pretty accurate, as far as when inspections occurred," said Shelby County Health Department Manager of Environmental Sanitation Kasia Smith-Alexander. "I think it will give people a good snapshot of the last inspection, so I think it's pretty good."
We did discover, however, that What The Health is only as good as the state health department's database.
Example: we searched for the latest health inspection scores for the three Memphis-area locations of Rayford's All-N-One Hot Wings, a regular top-performer on the Restaurant Scorecard. The app found Rayford's Cordova location and Third St. South Memphis location, but it failed to pull up its Riverdale Rd./Shelby Dr. Southeast Memphis location -- either through locator services or through its search feature.
In fact, when we tried to pull up any restaurant's health inspection within the Riverdale Rd./Shelby Dr. area, we received a message that read, "Something went wrong trying to download the list of places near you."
"I wouldn't use it if I can't find the restaurant," said Ricardo Harrison, a loyal customer of Rayford's Riverdale Rd./Shelby Dr. location. Its latest health inspection score is a 98.
"We retrieve all the health inspections directly from the Tennessee Department of Health," said Chris Peoples, co-founder of Modern Appsolutions, LLC, the developer of What The Health. "If they failed to input information for establishments in Southeast Memphis, this could be the issue."
It turns out Peoples is right.
We pulled up Rayford's on the Tennessee health department's online database. It did fail to list its Southeast Memphis location.
So it's only as updated as the health department with which it partners. But for the most part, What The Health is an accurate, handy (and free) tool, especially if you're searching restaurant scores in an unfamiliar state or city.
"I'm going to Los Angeles this coming Thursday," said Chef Williams. "I love this. If you're a foodie, you need this kind of stuff."
(NOTE: Arkansas is not on board What The Health because its health department does not issue scores. It only lists an establishment's violations.)