Food Establishment Licensing Data

By: Martha Konstandinidis and Katie Mulkerin

Who collects this data set? If it’s an organization, which department of the organization? Is there a specific person listed who you could contact?

Boston keeps data of many different aspects of the city including keeping record of food establishments that have a license to eat, drink and take out. The Department of Innovation and Technology collect this data from The Health Division of the Department of Inspectional Services to create and enforce food safety codes to ensure public health. This being said, every restaurant on the list must follow the city’s protocol in order to qualify for the permit that allows them to prepare and sell food. In order to qualify, the restaurant must have one employee that is certified through an accredited food manager program. This dataset contains a full list of restaurants in the city that have met the standards to obtain and become a licensed food establishment. For any questions or inquiries, there is an email to contact the Department of Innovation and Technology at

Why do you think the organization collects this data? Does it specify how it uses the data?

I think this data could be used for a multitude of reasons, for example I think they collect and record this data so they can keep track of the restaurants in the city that have a food license and are legally allowed to prepare and serve food to consumers. If they didn’t keep track then restaurants could get away with not having a valid license or even an expired on. Bringing me to my next point, this data can also help keep track of restaurants that aren’t covered by a license or may not be up-to-standards with the food safety codes. Without this, people would have to trust the eateries to follow safety protocols and have prior training without licensure. It covers the whole city of Boston so it covers a wide range of restaurants from the local Papa Gino’s to the high-end Top of the Hub.

What time period does the data set cover?

This dataset covers all active food licenses beginning in December of 2006 until present day. They earliest license awarded is December 7, 2006 and most recent license being January 21, 2020. Eateries have been added every year for the past fourteen years and as time goes on only more will be added as the staples in Boston continue their legacy. For those who don’t decide to renew their license or close their restaurant, their name will be taken off the dataset.

What are some questions you have about this data set? (Note: they can be basic like “why is this data being collected?” or very specific like “what does the field BUS_LIC_STATUS mean?”)

While looking at the data, I found myself questioning a few aspects of the document. I question what else the data is being used for and if they track the restaurants in another way based on the ethnicity of the food. Other than that, there are headers for each section of the data but one caught my eye as I was trying to decipher the information. “LICENSECAT” which I assume is License Category but letters are abbreviated under it as “FS” or “FT” and I’m curious what that means for the data and what they signify. Lastly, I wonder how accurate the location of each restaurant is because Boston can be tricky. Each has an address listed, followed by the part of the city including Boston, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and other parts but all of these areas are in the city of Boston itself. Are the eateries just clumped in as Boston or are they accurately depicting what PART of Boston their shops are in.

Who are three types of people you could interview about this data set in order to learn more? 

The three people that come to mind when thinking of possible interviews are the Department of Innovation and Technology since they gathered the data for the set and keep track of what is being added and taken out. Second was the Health Division from the Department of Inspectional Services as they are the ones that issue the permits and licenses for these restaurants and would have the best understanding of what it takes to make it on the list. Last, a business owner that has received a license to better understand what it takes to obtain a license at the ground level.

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