I have meant to post this for sometime, but every time I forgot.
In many cities, the sanitary inspection of restaurant resulting grade and score
Do these health/sanitary scores affect your decision to eat at a restaurant? When you walk pass two unknown restaurants would you use the score to decide which to go into? For a known restaurant which you have been going there for months and years, would you stop going there when it receives a low score?
We have a similar scheme in the UK:
The downside is that it is not compulsory for restaurants to display their rating, unless the regional government decides otherwise. That means that if you come a restaurant not displaying their score, you do not know if that is because the owner has decided not to display it (probably because of a low score) or simply because s/he hasnt bothered to display it.
I think to try and answer your question - yes, it probably would have an effect in an unknown town deciding between two unknown restaurants, I would probably pick the one with a score above 3 (the middle point) rather than one below 3. Does it affect my judgement about planning which restaurants to visit? No, it doesnt. I decide to visit a new restaurant for foody reasons. I might well decide not to return if I gad a less than stellar experience which prompted me to look at the ratings. As for stopping going to a known restaurant, yes, I have. I used to visit two Sichuan places in Chinatown and had been very happy with the food. In fairly quick succession I visited both again and had issues with the cleanliness of the toilet areas. I always take the view that a place which cannot be bothered to be hygenic in a public area, probably can’t be bothered to be hygenic in an out of view area - like the kitchen. On both occasions, I later checked the ratings (as I was going to mention the toilets in my review), to find a very low score. Needless to say, I’ve not been back to either.
Weird, no way to know the hygiene of a restaurant in France. I try to look it up, just in case I am the only one that ignore it. They have control of hygiene, but no score, doesn’t show it to the public.
Obligation to show is the price of the menu exterior of a restaurant, including the tax.
LOL, says a lot about the French, isn’t it?!
We regularly holiday in Spain where there is also no way of a visitor knowing of any hygiene issues. Over the years, my very non-scientific analysis of the cleanliness of toilet areas in bars concludes that those owned by Britons will be less clean than those owned by Spaniards or, indeed, other nationals - often significantly less clean.
Thanks for your detail response. To me, the score does help me to decide between two unknown restaurants, and sometime even known restaurant. However, it only help to rule out what I don’t want to try. For example, I much rather try a “A” restaurant over a “C” restaurant, but once a restaurant has a “B” or above, then the score has little effect. e.g. a “A” and a “B” restaurant is largely the same for me.
In addition, I care about the sanitary inspection score in certain restaurants like sushi and salad, where there isn’t a heating/cooking process. For example, I would go to a “B” grade kebab restaurant over a “B” grade sushi restaurant.
It has absolutely no bearing on where I’m going to eat. Well, if one place as an “A” vs. “B” or “C” - no, if a place has failed and has a known history of failing then perhaps. The bottom line is the health inspectors can be extremely biased in their inspections often having their hand out for a pay-off.
I “failed” a health inspection once because my prep-kitchen had insufficient grout on the floor tiles. Upon his return to inspect the newly grouted floor, he then failed me for “stained” ceiling tiles in the same prep kitchen. This was my first inspection at this location and I was 110% sure he was looking for a pay-off to go away. He probably failed me 4 or 5 times before finally passing me. I had a “temporary” bright yellow certificate for 6 mos, to which I would attach a copy of the handwritten report for the public to see why my certificate was temporary.
As others have noted when I travel, mostly to Caribbean islands I find it whimsical how “un-sanitary” many of their practices are based on US Health Dept. code. You would think based on the regulations here thousands of travelers would be dying from the lack of proper food handling etc.
For an example I offer you the following from a trip to Aruba a couple years ago which was so absurd I literally took pictures. This is an outdoor water front “restaurant” where the fishing boats come in, unload their bounty and clean and cook right there on the dock all out doors.
The first picture is where the “prep” the fish, they clean them right there at the cusp of the waterline. The fish waste is simply brushed back into the water. See the two guys on the left in the white chef jackets cleaning fish…wait…do you see the guy on the right? (2nd pic) here’s a close up, yep his in a speedo / banana hammock cleaning fish too!! LMAO…never have I ever witnessed someone in a speedo doing prep work in a restaurant!!! 3rd pic of the open kitchen, birds, flies etc. all around with the fresh fish being cleaned etc. Very questionable hygiene practices, excellent fresh seafood.
(pictures uploaded out of order, sorry)
We used to go to a sushi restaurant in Medford, MA. I read on a Boston website that they had gotten a very bad sanitation rating, so I emailed them to ask about it. They didn’t answer. We didn’t return.
I think Toronto has an amazing system which I’ll outline below. The scores of restaurants are also posted regularly on the blogto.com site, which I do check regularly. For me, in Toronto I will eat only at Green (Pass) restaurants. In London UK, where I also live, i aim for a 5 rating and won’t go below a 3 no matter what.
Every eating and drinking establishment in the City of Toronto receives a minimum of 1, 2, or 3 inspections each year depending on the specific type of establishment, the food preparation processes, volume and type of food served and other related criteria.
There are three (3) types of notices –
PASS (green) when only minor or no infractions are observed during an inspection.Fined if it repeats.
CONDITIONAL (yellow) when one or more significant infractions are observed during an inspection. Reinspection 24-48 hours later. Pass issued if improvement is seen. Court summons if not.
CLOSED (red) when one or more crucial infractions observed during an inspection are not corrected immediately. A food establishment can only be closed when a health hazard is present.
King County (Seattle area) has recently introduced a system that grades on a curve and gives happy faces, both of which I find ridiculous. Supposedly it is to help even out the disparity between different inspectors. https://publichealthinsider.com/2018/02/07/the-food-safety-rating-system-is-one-year-old/
My last inspection consisted of the guy taking the temp of some cream in my fridge and saying “looks like you’re not doing anything too hazardous” and was over in about 5 minutes. A different inspector knocked me points for not keeping my eggs on the lowest shelf, because apparently eggs are going to spontaneously explode in the fridge. So I do appreciate the inspections being public in case you really want to know whether the low score was due to the paper towels being out, a sewage back-up, or a particularly picky inspector. Though I do now keep my eggs on the bottom shelf, just in case!
But even taking inspection scores with a grain of salt, for a completely unknown restaurant a low score is a turnoff. If its a place I already know and like, I give them extra benefit of the doubt. If a place I hadn’t been to but had heard lots of good things about had a less than excellent score I’d probably still go based on foodie reputation.
The county in which I reside inspects every kitchen 2-3 times a year and posts their (very) detailed reports online. The restaurants themselves are not required to post the results–there are no grades assigned, just violations. I don’t necessarily check these results before I try a new place, but I do check out the web site periodically. Restaurants can get violations for trivial things like employees drinking out of cups that are not covered or hanging their pocketbooks over closed containers of flour Since I’m not overly worried about a server spilling his/her water on my food or cellphones jumping out of purses into my dish, I disregard these.
Not surprisingly, my worst meal in the county was at a restaurant I later saw had some serious violations (dirty cutting boards, slicers, improper temps, etc). What bummed me out was a favorite pizza place had violations for mouse droppings and a lack of hand-washing facilities in the kitchen. Needless to say I didn’t return after seeing that.
But to answer the question–if I was in a city that did post grades, I would probably lean towards dining at an “A” vs a “C.”
Funny you bring up the temperature of your cream. I don’t know if you have The Melting Pot brand of restaurants out by you, but they are fairly popular here on the East Coast. Primarily your table has a couple of cooking surfaces built in, you order your proteins and vegetables, they bring out pots of broth and or cheese and place them on you table top burners.
They then bring out RAW chicken, shrimp or beef and place it on the table for you to cook. The server gives you a brief disclosure not to use the raw forks with cooked food etc. but that’s about it. That’s it, the rest is left up to the customer to know when their food is cooked properly, how long it can sit on the table next to burners without spoiling and what if any utensils they wish to use. I have NO IDEA how the health department allows this, but will put their thermometer in your cream or items in a warming tray etc. etc.
I’m in Manhattan. A B grade isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but a C grade usually is. A restaurant in danger of getting a C can request a “grade pending” while they get their act together. So a C in a restaurant window means the restaurant either can’t or won’t do better. I don’t need to patronize a place like that - I have enough restaurants to choose from. Although I might make an exception for a restaurant I know and trust. Theoretically.
This thread made me think back to the (few and far between) times I’ve walked out of restaurants because of sanitation concerns. Once I was served a salad with a good-sized cockroach on the plate, legs in the air. Once I noticed a family of mice frolicking near the bar. And once a woman - and I think she worked there - changed her infant’s diaper on the table next to mine. I ask you.
A favorite local Cantonese place closed abruptly. A friend went to check it out and found a B health department rating in the window. I don’t know, but I have a feeling the owners couldn’t figure out a way to resolve the problems.
We do have the Melting Pot here, haven’t been. Korean barbecue and shabu-shabu also require the diner to cook food. Just yesterday I went out for Korean tofu soup. It usually comes bubbling hot and the server cracks an egg into it. At this place, it arrived not bubbling and the server put it on the hot plate, turned the hot plate on, and told me to add the egg when the soup boils. Didn’t say “cook 2 minutes” or anything.
Maybe the disclaimer on the menu that eating raw or under-cooked foods is enough? Or once you accept the responsibility for cooking your own food, the restaurant is no longer liable?
These are some stories indeed.
B? B caused a closure? Or do you mean a D?
Hmmm. Interesting comment. I mentioned the two Sichuan places upthread. Whenever I went for lunch, most customers were of Chinese heritage and most were eating a “hot pot”. Raw ingredients provided to cook in a broth. I wonder if that formed part of the Environmental Health Department’s low rating?
As an aside, a steak place I go to in Spain serves it up on a fiercely hot stone. It arrives at very rare and you continue to cook it to your preference. And very nice it is too.
I like it, especially when in an area I’m not familiar with. Very surprised one of my favorite grinder joints had a “C” tho
I don’t remember what their city’s rating system is. It could have been some language like “provisional”, and it could have been a C (out of A-D). If, for example, their refrigeration system needed upgrading, the expense might have been too much.
Another place in the same city, Jodi’s, had the best fried chicken around. But the health inspector found out that Jodi was pre-preparing it at home, and he had to stop serving it. A while later, the inspector found too many other problems, like the lack of a separate sink for washing hands. The
landlord didn’t want to pay for the upgrades, so Jodi’s shut down completely.
Oh no no no, mice are supposed to stay in the kitchen!
Seriously though, mice are kind of a constant struggle. They get in, you plug the holes they’ve chewed in the walls, set traps and kill enough to not see them for a few months, then their cousins chew through the walls in a different spot and you go on another killing spree.
Nobody wants disease-carrying vermin in their restaurant, especially where customers can see them, but I think you can otherwise be conscientious about food safety and sanitation (cook and hold food correctly, store food covered, bleach all surfaces before starting to cook) but still be losing the war against mice.