Health Concerns

One Year In, Have Health Grades Really Helped Us?

Maybe the DOH should change this to an <em>A</em>-minus.
Maybe the DOH should change this to an A-minus.

It’s been a year since letter grades began popping up in restaurant windows, and by now the Department of Health has evaluated 90 percent of the city’s 24,000 eateries, says The Wall Street Journal. In honor of the anniversary, the paper sat down and did a little math. What you’ve probably observed around town is true: Most restaurants received As — 69 percent — while 15 percent were issued Bs, and just 4 percent got stuck with Cs (12 percent are contesting). So, huzzah, the majority our restaurants are super fastidious! Well, not quite.

You see, if the DOH had an A-minus sign, a large chunk of A-rated restaurants would get it, since most of them received twelve or thirteen violation points, placing them just on the cusp between an A and the fourteen points that would earn them a B. Some restaurants probably have a sense of how much they can get away with while staying within A territory, and inspectors might be loathe to issue one or two more points if it would change the grade, the WSJ points out.

Lovely, the Journal is much better at math than we’ll ever be, and they even made a handy chart! However, here’s the real question: Does any of this truly matter? Most of the places you’re eating probably received As. You might or might not feel comfortable eating in a B-graded restaurant, but we’ve tucked in at a number of these without thinking twice. And C-graded restaurants are so rare it’s a surprise to see an orange sign, though we did observe recently that the dodgiest, grimiest (C-graded) stall in a certain Flushing mini-mall had way more customers than its A-adorned neighbor. Could there be something to what one guy quoted in the WSJ says, that certain places — he’s talking about barbecue joints, but it might apply to back-alley dumpling shops as well — “need to be dirty in order to be good”? Call us naive, but we rather preferred the days before grades, and restaurateurs surely did as well. What do you think: Do the DOH’s efforts affect your dining decisions, or will you happily eat at a B- or C-graded joint? Let us know in the comments.

Many Eatery High Marks Are Close Call [WSJ]
Related: The Health Department: Hero or Villain?

One Year In, Have Health Grades Really Helped Us?