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Will Restaurant Grades Change Where New Yorkers Dine?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Restaurant owners are bracing themselves for a new food safety grading system starting later this month. Diners will soon see an 8 x 12 inch blue "A," green "B," or yellow "C" letter posted at the entrance of every restaurant and bar in all five boroughs of New York City--nearly 24,000 locations in total.

But most New Yorkers are only just hearing about the new grading system now, and are wondering what, for example, a "B" means when it comes to restaurant cleanliness and sanitary conditions.

WNYC's Jim Colgan, the digital editor for "The Takeaway," went to midtown Manhattan's Restaurant Row one Saturday evening to ask New Yorkers if the grades, or perhaps health inspection reports, will change where they eat. Hear their reactions by clicking above, or have a crack at answering WNYC's question of the day:  

Would you prefer to see a restaurant grade posted in city restaurants, or see the actual restaurant health inspection report?

 

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Comments [4]

Collins

I agree with Dennis. Los Angeles County has been using a similar system for 12 years now and they have concluded that the implementation of an ABC grading system has caused a significant reduction of food-borne-illnesses that cause hospitalization. Even better, the level of restaurant sanitation in Los Angeles has dramatically improved as restaurant owners seek to have cleaner restaurants to attract more patrons. Those restaurants with an A grade have increased their revenue, while C-grade restaurants have either cleaned up their establishments or closed – a win either way for the consumer.

Jul. 19 2010 04:24 PM
Collins

I agree with Dennis. Los Angeles County has been using a similar system for 12 years now and they have concluded that the implementation of an ABC grading system has caused a significant reduction of food-borne-illnesses that cause hospitalization. Even better, the level of restaurant sanitation in Los Angeles has dramatically improved as restaurant owners seek to have cleaner restaurants to attract more patrons. Those restaurants with an A grade have increased their revenue, while C-grade restaurants have either cleaned up their establishments or closed – a win either way for the consumer.

Jul. 19 2010 04:24 PM
Harry from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Setting up a public rating system is all well and good **IF** it is fairly determined. Alas, the effort I recall by the Health Department to publicize restaurant ratings did nothing but fuel massive corruption.

About 30 years ago, the Health Department decided to release detailed reports on every restaurant that failed a third routine examination. Among other outlets, these reports appeared regularly in the Sunday NY TIMES, in a feature popularly known as the "Dirty Restaurant Column.".

After a certain period of time, a pattern emerged. Restaurants that appeared marginal, at least to the casual diner who noticed the rats performing line dances in the men's toilet, missed the list or were cited for insufficient hand-washing signs. At the same time, prestigious, high-ticket eateries were slammed with long lists of often technical violations (a cooler 1 degree too warm, for instance).

In the fullness of time, we learned (from TIMES reporters who both saw and smelled a rat) that the dirty were made clean by bribes and the clean were made dirty by their refusal to pay bribes. The Health Department wound up firing most of its restaurant inspectors, some of whom went to jail, and adopting the policy of NOT publicizing its ratings.

I know that the overwhelming majority of city employees are dedicated to honest public service. But can the current cadre of health inspectors ALL resist the conspicuous temptation to extract a ... gratuity ... from eateries that earn $100, $200, $500 or more per cover? At the same time,the restaurant business -- especially at the low-price, cost-conscious end -- operates on a limited margin, and will not hesitate to cut corners.

The grading plan is a good idea, in the abstract, but likely to prove disastrous in New York -- which has been governed, for the past four centuries, by the question, "How much money is in it for me?"

So let's see what results, and look to improve what emerges.

Jul. 17 2010 01:28 AM
Dennis j Katz from 11105

It is high time that New York adopt this measure. It works in California. As a Navyman, I was stationed in san Diego and Long Beach in the 60s, I would have faced displinary action for eating for eating in a resturant, bar, etc. that did not have a
A class certificate.
Very truly yours
Dennis j Katz

Jul. 16 2010 09:17 AM

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