The DOH’s letter-grade system for rating New York City restaurants seems like a great idea –let customer’s quickly and easily see how eateries stack up when it comes to health and safety codes. However, in just the few short years the system has been around (it was implemented in 2010) it has become more and more apparent that it could do with an overhaul.
On one side you have restaurant owners complaining that inspectors are overly trigger-happy when it comes to noting violations –receiving bonuses and promotions the more violations they cite. Not to mention the city rakes in quite a hefty amount of buckage from the fines associated with health inspection citations –in 2012, the city made $52 million from fines, an increase of 87% over 2009, the year before the letter grade system was introduced (funny how that works…).
However, on the other hand, the appeals process available makes it all too easy for restaurants to up their letter grade without needing to do much in the way of improving the conditions of their establishments. According to information gathered by The New York World, more than 13,000 restaurants appealed the results of their inspections between January 2013 and April 2014. Of these 13,000 appeals, over 7,000 resulted in an improved letter grade. As inspectors rarely show up at the appeals, the process can be a bit lopsided. Often owners are granted an improved rating simply for apologizing for previous violations –the most common of which are things like “failing to store food as a proper temperature” and maintaining conditions “conducive to vermin.”
It’s a bit of a messy situation to say the least. And while I certainly hate the idea of small business owners paying huge fines or potentially having to close up shop due to a broken system, I’m also not super keen on eating at a supposedly A-rated establishment that may very well be “conducive to vermin”. What are your thoughts on the current letter grading system?
Lauren is a New York based actor/singer/writer. She is a graduate of the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University as well as the College of the Holy Cross. She’s a fan of beer, pasta, and academic establishments with unnecessarily long titles. Find her on stage, or online– she’s there often.