Since the beginning of July 2010, restaurants have been required to post a sanitary letter grade in their window. This letter shows potential customers that the restaurant has been inspected by the NYC Health Department and how well the restaurant did.

Restaurants are not only required to be inspected, but they must also display their score in an unavoidable place in their window. For some restaurants, this new initiative has negatively affected their business, while others have not seen much of an effect.

One frequent restaurant goer said that she has stopped going to some of her favorite restaurants simply because she cannot bear the idea of eating a place with a grade lower than a “B.”

New York City's Sanitation Grading Scares Many Restaurant Owners. Credit: Alyssa Kirschenbaum

According to the Department of Public Health, there is a three step process in their grading. The first step is public health hazards; this entails keeping foods at the appropriate temperature. Following this code can raise a restaurant’s score by up to seven points. If this rule cannot be quickly followed by the end of the inspection, the restaurant must immediately shut down until they are able to do so.

The following step is critical violation. This violation entails serving raw or unwashed foods. A violation such as this is worth five points.

The final violation regards improperly washed utensils and can be worth up to five points. Additional points can be rewarded or subtracted depending on smaller scale violations, such as contaminated foods. The scores can ultimately range from fourteen and up.

The process is nerve-wracking for a restaurant owner. The restaurant has two opportunities to earn an “A.”  If the restaurant is not rewarded an “A” on the first round, an inspector will drop by unannounced for an additional visit. If the restaurant does not earn the letter the owners would like, they receive a “B,” a “C,” or a “Grade Pending” card. The restaurant gets the choice of which card they would like to show. If they choose the “Grade Pending” card, this means they are waiting for an inspector to come again for the restaurant to potentially get an “A”.

What is most shocking about this new system is how poorly so many prestigious restaurants in New York City did. Some of these restaurants were horrified by the grades they initially received, and the owners did everything in their power to achieve a higher grade. Other restaurants claimed that they had loyal customers, so they did not find in necessary to go through another round of inspection.

If you would like to find out what grade your favorite restaurant received, click here.

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