It’s just one of those win-win-win kinda things.
In 2010, the city began requiring restaurants in the city to post letter grades based on health inspections. That means that restaurants that score badly — due to things like pest-conducive kitchens or inadequate hand-washing facilities — have to put up scarlet letters in their windows (like a “C”) deterring customers from patronizing their business. Others with zero or minimal violations get to flaunt their “A” score in the window, luring in passersby into their squeaky-clean, healthy facilities.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg reported Tuesday that, during the time that the city has mandated these grades be posted, the city has seen a reduction in foodborne illnesses, restaurants have gotten cleaner, owners have had to pay fewer fines, New Yorkers have increasingly used the grades when making dining decisions, and total restaurant sales have increased. (Win-win-win-win! — except for, you know, the restaurants that are losing).
Salmonella infections — a nasty foodborne illnesses — fell 14% during the letter grading’s first full year, making it the lowest level in the last two decades, the city reported. And in the first nine months since grading began, compared to the year before, the city’s restaurant sales in New York City increased $800 million, which is a 9.3% jump. A year ago, 65% of restaurants had “A” grades, but now 72% are earning the best score.
According to a survey from Baruch College and the City University of New York, 91% of New Yorkers approve of the grading system and 88% of those surveyed consider letter grades when they are choosing a restaurant.
New York City also released a new app called “ABCEats NYC” that allows hungry folks to check a restaurant’s letter grade. (Don’t forget that New York City is totally hip when it comes to technology, guys).
It’s worth noting that there are chefs, restaurant owners, and even some elected officials who have expressed concerns with the system, arguing that it can be subjective, arbitrary, burdensome, and unnecessarily harmful to businesses.
For more on this, you can also check out what our colleagues at Fork in the Road had to say!