A former health inspector says restaurant letter grades are bogus

Mark Nealon is president of the SAFE Restaurants Consulting Company and a former health inspector. He tells us why the letter grades in restaurants don’t mean too much. Following is a transcript of the video.

Mark Nealon: A restaurant goes through a cycle inspection at least once a year. On the reinspection, depending on how the restaurant performs, they’re issued to grade. A, B or C. We’re at a point now where the city inspector will actually count the number of mouse droppings that they find in a restaurant. That number is not just very arbitrary but can be the difference between life and death to your business. You can get a B grade very easily by a couple of cracked floor tiles, maybe a dusty ventilation hood, a fruit fly that was found at the bar and a thermometer maybe that wasn’t working properly. And there’s your B grade. Where an A grade restaurant could have, like I said, a couple weeks ago been closed down. The inspector can find a live rat in the kitchen and still issue an A grade. That’s a 10 point violation and it takes 13 or more points to lose your A grade. So it’s really just a snapshot in time. If you get inspected as a restaurant owner on a Friday night let’s say, when you are packed, your chances of more violations are there, as opposed to, let’s say, a restaurant across the street that gets inspected on a Tuesday afternoon when the restaurant is actually closed and cleaning up between lunch and dinner service. Yes, I would certainly eat at a restaurant that didn’t have an A in their window in a heartbeat.

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