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The most interesting comment of the night, in my opinion, was when Andrew Rigie from the New York State Restaurant Association referred to a restaurant letter grade as a scarlet letter. He also made an interesting point when he said even a "C" grade restaurant is still safe and sanitary enough to serve the public. Unfortunately, the majority of the viewers we polled tonight said they will not eat at a restaurant if it has anything below an "A" grade. I guess it is a scarlet letter.
City Council lawmakers heard testimony today from restaurant owners about the Health Department's letter grading system. It debuted in July 2010 and Mayor Bloomberg says it's helped boost business and cut the number of salmonella infections significantly.
But many restaurant owners tell a different story. Of the 1,297 who responded to a Council survey, 68% said the grading system has increased their costs dramatically, arguing department inspectors seem more intent on issuing fines than on helping the industry improve. The New York State Restaurant Association adds the letter grades are inconsistent and unfair to small businesses. What do you say?
Do you welcome the A, B, C grading system for New York City restaurants? Have you avoided an establishment because of a low rating? How would you improve a system many small business owners say is unfair and expensive?
Send your thoughts using the link above.
I think the grading system is excellent. In the past, you would have little idea that a restaurant you patronize had unsanitary or unsafe conditions until you found it closed by order of the Health Department. This way, you know that, at least on the day of the inspector's visit, the kitchen was running safely.
And, I do avoid a low rated restaurant, but will go back once the grade improves.
Regarding helping the business owners, I think the Health Dept has classes for them so that they can be sure to maintain a healthy and safe business.
Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn
The mayor should come clean, and admit that the restaurant grading system is nothing more than a way for the city to make money at the expense of restaurants.
Felix Bay Ridge
I do welcome the grading system. And no, I won't eat at any restaurant with less than an A rating. I see no conflict between 'issuing fines' and 'helping the industry improve.' Fines for unhealthy conditions help the industry improve. Before the grades, I once saw the two biggest rats I've ever seen--obese rats, big and fat as Thanksgiving turkeys--running out of an eating chain that shall go unnamed. To the restauranteur who says inspectors 'generate fear', he should be glad if people don't fear to eat in his restaurant. Speaking of grease, I wonder who is greasing Speaker Quinn's outstretched palm this week? Well, at least we know the Restaurant Association can't afford Mike Bloomberg's price tag.
i live in bay ridge and i like the rating system but i also feel the rating system needs better oversight and an appeals process for overzealous agents and unfair ratings. i frequent a restaurant in bay ridge that recd an A rating and then were forced to undergo a 2nd inspection before the time was due. when the owner asked why they were being reinspected, the agent left the restaurant and reported that they felt "threatened". after a long process of appealing and losing their A to a Grade Pending, they did receive their A rating back.
debbie from bay ridge
Bloomberg’s restaurant rating system is a scam and was a scam form it’s inception. It’s a scam to raise money that can’t be raised through taxation. It’s a new fee for operating a restaurant.
Why is the operation of a restaurant any business of the government? There are plenty of private inspection companies and would be even more if the government would get out of the way. Leave it to reputable inspection organizations like the food industry equivalents of Consumer Reports, United Laboratories, etc. and our own restaurant reviewers. I trust their opinion far more than I trust the cheap little tyrant, the anti-health commissioner, Thomas Farley.
Who regulates the regulators? Bloomberg and his administration get an F-Minus.
Port Richmond, SI
I think that this grading system is a good start. I have indeed passed over restaurants with low grades. I am no fan of bureaucracy but it is high time restaurants cleaned up their act. I have worked in restaurants and believe me, until this grading system came along there was no real accountability.
I agree with the grading system, but they have a lot of work to do, these restaurant are dirty, I live in hollis queens and there is a dunkin donuts with an "A" grading, I went online to read the comments and they have rats, flies roaches and present in the food...HOW IS IT THAT THEY GOT AN "A"?????
Although the rating system is not perfect, it is much better than forcing consumers to gamble with their health. The issue with the owners is the issue with anyone who comes under the scrutiny of government - how do you insure that you are fairly treated? One way is to open up the inspection records, including number of visits to particular establishments. Open access to government data is key.
I agree with Ian - consistency is important and having your business up to the whims of how an inspector feels that day is no way to treat our small businesses. Perhaps a possible solution is to have the grade be the average of 3 inspections, by 3 different inspectors.
In addition, grades should be on a number scale. I feel it's an insult to consumer's intelligence to think every restaurant falls into one of three categories.
Frank, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Keep the system as is! It is wonderful
It is not costly, and those restaurants that claim cost problems, are not serious about good clean food
Other states in the US have had grading for over 50 years
And don't go with the Los Angeles version
And KEEP THE GRADES POSTED!!!!!!!!!
JUST ANOTHER MONEY GENERATING SYSTEM FOR THE BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION PERIOD . THE CITY S ASSAULT ON SMALL BUSINESS LIKE 2ND AVE SUBWAY FIASCO SHOWS THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION INDIFFERENCE TO WORKING MIDDLE CLASS . GRADING SYSTEM IS ALL ABOUT MIKE (THE SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM ) BLOOMBERG MAKING MORE REVENUE FOR DUBAI WEST THAT HES CREATED !
DENNIS NYC CIVIL SERVANT
This is a great system. They had it in LA for many years, and when I moved back here i was delighted to see this great idea had cleaned
things up here in NY
Greg in bpc
I agree with the a b c grading policy. I think it gives motivation to businesses to stay clean. If the a b c policy was not in effect, many people could be at risk of health issues. However, inspectors should not temper with equipment unless it is necessary
I do agree that the sanitation grade does affect where I eat. Anything other than an A makes me feel not only uncomfortable but also it makes me lose my appetite. Also when you see a restaurant with a B or a C its very visible why they have it. The restaurants I've been to that have anything other than a A surely deserve it. I mean come on people they didn't get it for no reason.
I have three (there was a fourth, but a bloodsucking landlord put them out of business) eateries where I eat on a regular basis - as in four or five times a week. One has an A, two have Bs and one has "grade pending." I eat at them all and always will because I know that they do their very best as far as cleanliness and hygiene are concerned and I know that the inspectors often nitpick over nonsense. Bloomberg is trying to put small businesses out of business and he uses any method he can get away with.
Los Angeles has experience with a letter grading system and it appears to be working for them. I'm surprised that a restaurant owner might be "terrified" of an inspection. If restaurant owners instilled standards of cleanliness with all of his staff he should have nothing to worry about. I'll pass on any restaurant that does not have an A rating. There are plenty of establishments high standards and they will get my money.
Since we live in lil ole new york would anyone be shocked, (shocked!) to see this process end up in the (dirty?) hands of corrupt bureaucrats? Will we find owners being forced to buy an A instead of winning one? That would be too bad, since the idea is actually helpful.
this system is one of the mayors more genius ideas.... first they get the customers hooked on looking for A's, then they raise fines collective millions more than ever even though they claim the nyc is safer now then why higher fines.. however the letter is really a joke because you can have a letter A and have FAILED your last inspection, so its actually worthless
It is a flawed system. Each inspector has their own set of rules and what they look for. I am fine with a strict set of rules because it should be safety first but the sad reality is the Health Department goes after the deep pocket restaurants such as chains and multi units. All the while there is a diner on the corner with a disgusting kitchen that somehow is never shut down and has a "B". It is unfair and is truly about money and we all know it. Plus, how do the many food carts around the city get around the restaurants food handling laws of holding temperatures, hand washing and food handling. It should be the same across the board.
I agree with the rating system and I won't eat at any restaurant that doesn't have an A rating. I think that the restaurant owners are protesting too much. Come on Christine Quinn is there any band wagon you won't get on in order to get attention?
I will not eat in any restaurant after reading the comments online, even with an "A" grading they have flies and roaches present how is that possible.
The problem with the grade system is that most people think anything less than an A means that there's a food safety issue and more often than not, that's not even close to the case.
The second problem is that there is no consistency or transparency. I work for a cafe that passed inspection three years in a row and then all is a sudden they decided the sink was in violation even though they had approved it and nothing had changed and they're response was that the three previous inspectors made a mistake. They them shut down the cafe for six days then reopened it and nothing had changed except that the employees lost pay, the business lost 6,000 and the city lost tax revenue. It's ridiculous.
The restaurant lobbyists all cry about letting the industry regulate itself and letting the market-place decide which restaurants succeed and fail, but isn't a letter C grade doing that. If customers don't want to eat at a grade C restaurant that's a tremendous market-place incentive to the owner to improve and attract new customers.
My son-in-law owned a diner and a catering hall in Rockaway Beach, N.Y. One day an inspector cited + fined him for having a fly in the kitchen. Entering another part of the diner the inspector saw a fly and was going to cite + fine again,when my son-in-law asked the inspector, how do you know its not the same fly?
The inspector answered: I never thought of that..My son-in-law now works for a major package delivery service,putting about 20 people out of work.
I agree with the grading, but would demand consistency. The grading should not be based on the most recent visit, but the average of the past three for example.
I have been to the website and see why the grading is such, and have found the grading can go from 7 points in one visit to 24 in the next one. Restaurants tend to cut corners and in an economy like ours, this can help control safety and cleanliness.
The consumer will never know what is happening behind the scene's, until you're an employee. If you really want to know whats going on take the time get employed there to clear your consciences . Until then remember that life is short Eat Drink be Merry.
Sunny Side, Staten Island NY
I work in midtown near 5th Ave.
I go to restaurants, coffee shops, delis and i see a common denominator.
All have signs saying employees should wash hands.
I observe and them and very few do. Also, many employees touch their mouths, noses , eyes...and continue working as if nothing.
Also the bathrooms are a disgrace very often
Sunnyside Gdens, Queens
This city is going crazy with regulations and the only people who have to abide by these restrictions are the little people like you and me. I'm not sure what politicians think they are accomplishing, except to drive people out of the city.
In my neighborhood, which we call "Little India", there are places that have an "A" grade, but they keep food out on the counter such as cooked chicken at room temperature all day. Why do they get an "A"?
I have lived in New York all my life and I feel the rating system was long overdue. Let the chips fall where they may.
Guillermo from Glendale, NY
I like the rating system for the most part. However the restaurants are rated with points and fines for things that are beyond their control. For instance if the basement in the building that they are in has some water on the floor, or a hole is found in the boiler room the restaurant gets points, money fines, and a C rating,. How is that fair. Should go to the restaurant owners rebuild the old building basement?
The last caller that told you that she's had "lots" of food illnesses must be eating in the wrong places. I eat out almost every night and have been doing it for years and I've never been ill.
When I first heard of this new system I thought great, but like so many other things in the city, there are no definitive guidelines or uniformity to how these grades are given. There needs to be a set of distinctive points by which all are graded to promote fairness and honesty. More importantly, why doesn't the city place grades on apartment buildings where people reside that have major deficiencies and violations that put people in imminent danger. What would then happen to owners and city revenues.
I am a Food and Beverage Manager for a company in which we have 27 restaurants with 27 A's proudly displayed on our doors. As a company we have educated and trained our employees with the Department of Health's standards to achieve our A's and as a company hold food safety as a high priority. As inconsistent the inspectors may be, I feel it is extremely important that the department of health holds New York City restaurants responsible for maintaining their restaurants to the highest standards. The health of a guest should always matter and as a food connoisseur I will always avoid any restaurant without an A, even those I had frequented in the past because I know what violations are possible to be graded a B or C.
I believe that the New York City Health Commissioner is doing his best to protect the public. The Restaurant Grading System is needed to ensure Public Health. Possibly the system needs to be adjusted for consistency in measuring the various aspects of restaurant operations (including food handling and sanitary conditions) and a procedure for restaurateurs to protest as well. Like we have experienced with other industries (see Financial crisis), we can't have industries in a self-regulatory mode. Simply the public needs some "checks and balances" for food safety.
I'd like to offer my thoughts in regards to the call show segment on the city council meeting tonight regarding the restaurant letter grading system. I work for a restaurant law firm. A large part of our practice is fighting DOH violations. We fight hundreds if not thousands of these violations each year and the problem is not the system itself but rather the way it is enforced and administered. Specifically, the inspection process is complete random and unpredictable. Owners will get violations for certain items on an initial inspection, only to receive totally different, new violations on the re-inspection many of which should have been pointed out on the first inspection. For example, we have had clients who will get violations for food debris or general sanitation violations, only to be written up for having holes in a wall or a mis-located sink on the re-inspection. In other words, the owner corrected the problems from the first inspection, only to get written up for completely new violations that were present on the previous inspection but were not written up. In other words, the owners never know what to expect. The inspectors are completely arbitrary and are afforded way too much discretion in what they deem to be a violation. Fighting the violations is no better. We jokingly refer to OATH Health proceedings as "Russian Roulette" because your outcome is wholly determined by which Judge you are assigned. The Judges are just as arbitrary in their decision making as the inspectors and have far too much discretion in what they deem to be an appropriate violation. If you have any questions my office would love to comment further on this issue. Again, the system as a whole is good for the city and for restaurants. The way its being enforced prejudices and discriminates against owners whose fates are more often then not in the hands of untrained, misinformed, and unprofessional DOH staff.
When they first appeared I would see a lot of A's everywhere but I knew it would only be a matter of time before the health dpt got into gear and started finding places to destroy. Its really unfair to have a letter on your window that obviously affects your business if it is less than an A. Anyone who says it doesn't is lying. Everyone can view a restaurants profile online if they want. Why should we be judged from a letter that most people see before they even read the name of the restaurant or the menu. It is bad for businesses in an already struggling economy. I hope that one day soon this will go away for good so I can try to keep my business up and running without the added stress. There has got to be a better way.