NYC restaurants’ grades improve, violations down: City

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5/2/2017

By Ivan Pereira

New York restaurants are making the grade when it comes to cleanliness and safety and experts say patrons are responsible for getting eateries on the right track.

About 93 percent of the 24,000 city restaurants earned an “A” rating in the Department of Health’s report card in the latest data from 2017, compared with 83 percent of restaurants that got the mark in 2011, a year after the report card system launched.

Various health violations have seen concurrent sharp declines, including roaches, mice and salmonella cases, the latter of which have dropped 32 percent overall since 2010, according to the Health Department.

The city credited the grading system with pushing restaurant owners to keep closer tabs on the conditions of their kitchens, while experts say the initiative has spurred an increased level of awareness among customers, who demand the best health standards.

“The letter grade weighs heavily on their mind,” said Kevin Dugan, the city regional director for the New York State Restaurant Association. “They are cognizant of what is going on at all times.”

Dugan said an “A” grade posted on a restaurant window offers a degree of credibility comparable to a good review or a promotion. Patrons, he said, will often pick restaurants based solely on the letter in the window.

Plus, now that customers have easier tools like 311 to file complaints with the city or can use services like Yelp, owners have been careful to keep their sites clean at all times, he added.

A co-owner of a Bayside restaurant, who asked to remain anonymous, said inspectors have been far from lenient. During a recent visit on a Saturday night when he had 300 customers, the owner received an “A” mark but inspectors deducted points for “a piece of paper on the floor.”

“They need to be thorough. They check everything,” he said.

Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said the report cards “give people a sense of purpose and [encourage them] to do the right thing.”

Up-to-date kitchen regulations are available online and are sent to owners annually, according to the Health Department. Corinne Schiff, the agency’s deputy commissioner for environmental health, said more owners are taking advantage of its food protection course, which educates them on safety practices and carries a $24 final examination fee.

Last year, nearly 30,900 people completed the course, an 8,000-person increase from 2010.

“We provide a lot of education about the requirements and education about the best practices to keep customers safe,” she said.

The Health Department noted that 400 restaurants have taken part in its “consultative inspections” program, which has a $100 fee and began three years ago. Under the program, a Health official will visit a restaurant before it is graded, tour it with the owner and provide them with a list of areas where they can improve.

Although Dugan said changes like this have made it easier for restaurants to navigate the report card system, there are still areas that unfairly burden businesses.

He noted that non-food safety violations, such as a broken door at an entrance or a damaged pipe in the building, are unnecessarily included in the final score.

“It confuses consumers,” he said.

Schiff, however, said it’s necessary to note such building problems because they could lead to pest or other contamination concerns. She promised that the city will continue to boost its education and outreach efforts to benefit owners and patrons alike.

“Our goal is that every restaurant in New York City gets posted with an ‘A’ in the window,” she said.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 5:12 pm and is filed under amNewYork, Breaking News, Politics, Print Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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