Food Safety - The Rise of the Transparent Restaurant
How new health inspection programs and social media are bringing food-handling into the open
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 Americans suffer food poisoning each year. Food disease investigators are urging the public to wash their hands, be careful with their food, and review restaurant inspection reports before dining out. This new health-trend is putting restaurant owners and food operators in the hot seat. No more secrets. No more cutting corners. A couple cases of food-borne illness have the potential to shut down an entire chain of restaurants. That’s a risk you can’t afford to take.
Food safety adds a new dimension to restaurant criticism. As if food and service wasn’t demanding enough to generate buzz, how about a huge letter grade plastered on the main entrance window or posted online which shares how your restaurant passed a health inspection? Among New York City adults, 81 percent report seeing the letter grades in restaurant windows, and 88 percent consider the grades in their dining decisions. As many as 70 percent of New Yorkers express concern about getting sick from eating out in restaurants, delis and coffee shops. As of summer 2012, this is a game-change many restaurants will be facing.
New York City’s new health inspection strategy publically posts an A, B, or C grade for a full year upon completing inspection. The New York City Health Commission is finding the results of the grading-practice “very encouraging.” With the impending tests, New York City’s restaurants and diners, cafes and cafeterias, caterers and even street vendors are heading back to school to learn the do’s and don’t of food safety. Restaurants want A’s and are fighting to get them.
The letter-grading system has given New York City’s 24,000 restaurants an incentive to clean up their kitchens and dining rooms and achieve hygienic success. Diners across the city have more A-grade restaurants to choose from than they did six months ago and many more than a year ago. As of January 2012, 72 percent of restaurants were posting A grades, up from 69 percent in July 2011 and 65 percent in January 2011. The Health Department expects that, over time, with an A grade as incentive and more frequent inspections to monitor and educate poorer-performing restaurant operators, these conditions will continue to improve and rates of foodborne illnesses will continue to decline, making dining out cleaner and safer. Given its success, the New York City’s model is likely to be implemented by cities and counties on a wide scale.
Meet the new breed of health inspector
Health Inspectors now have unprecedented say in your business success. On one hand, they can give you the selling-advantage of an A health review. On the other, they can hurt you in a way that puts your restaurant in the same club as BP. And it’s a long, slow, and expensive swim out of the Gulf.
Are you aware of all the critical violations these health inspectors are trained to find? And are all your people, from line-chefs to bussers, aware? Critical violations on the inspection score-sheet include dirty aprons, mislabeled containers, failing to wash hands when moving from one raw food to another, and precise food temperatures. These and more truly are critical for your score.