Are NYC Restaurants Prepared for the Letter Grade?

The new health inspection letter grade system will be starting inspections on Thursday, July 15, 2010.  As described in this New York Times article, New York City restaurants are required to post their health inspection letter grades in their windows.  The letter grades are expected to have an effect on where guests choose to dine. 

The article mentions that the program might put many restaurants out of business or affect the city’s economy, but it’s also possible that ‘A’ restaurants would be rewarded with increased business.  However, it is expected to take 14 months to carry out all inspections, and restaurants can request a re-inspection if they received a ‘B’ or ‘C’ can request a re-inspection.

One of the main changes to the health inspection deals with time-temperature controls on food, which looks at not only the temperature of the food, but also the time that it has been sitting out.  This WSJ article ‘Restaurants Chase Grade’ describes how the public posting is affecting guest satisfaction, as restaurants work to get its operations on par with the ‘A’ grade.  The article mentions that prepackaged food items should be kept at 38 degrees, but the article points out that the temperature is colder than most guests prefer.  One restaurateur mentions that salad served at 38 degrees would hurt guests’ teeth, and another restaurant mentioned receiving complaints about frozen food.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Cherif Mbodji’s outlook on how operations are affected by the inspections.  He mentions that they are holding weekly walk-throughs for their entire staff on the regulations.  He is making compliance a team effort rather than just a chef responsibility.

I, for one, am curious to see how this effects the guest experience; from the curb appeal to food presentation.  As a consumer, will anyone even enter a restaurant that earns less than an A?  Or what happens you have a reservation to celebrate your birthday and you get to the door and find a ‘B’ in the window?  Time will only tell.  

For more information about the health inspection requirements, the inspection worksheet can be found on page 15 on the following nyc.gov link.  The link also provides explanations and examples of each possible score for items on pages 20-40.

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