Can they make the grade?

04 February 2009

It was revealed yesterday that the D.C. City Council will soon be voting on a measure that would require restaurants in the District to post a grade given to them during health inspections on the front door.

And as always, I have questions.

I am curious about how stringent these inspections are going to be. I wonder if the restaurants would be able to appeal to the health department the inspection came during an inopportune time. I do believe that restaurants should be held to high standards or cleanliness, but I also understand that there are certain points during a health inspection that have little to do with the cleanliness of the restaurant overall. What's more, these points can drop an inspection by an entire letter grade.

I've worked in many restaurants before enrolling in college. During that time, there was one restaurant that was about as clean as a customer could hope for; it was probably cleaner than many of your own kitchens. This restaurant (the Landmark, for those in the know), constantly received the top grade when the inspectors came and did their thing. One time however, the inspector came during a delivery. The restaurant received a lower than usual grade because there were a few boxes on the floor, something that is in violation. These boxes did not contain food, but generally cleaning supplies and canned goods. Can we really post grades on a door that my drive away customers for having something as trivial as a box on the floor?

If a restaurant is required to post these grades, I believe that inspections should be frequent and that they should be able to be appealed (or reinspected withing a particular time window, say 48 hours). If a good system can be worked out that grade restaurants fairly, perhaps they could consider something more like a GPA system that calculates the good and the bad to give a better idea of the restaurant's track record.

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