FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, DEPUTY MAYOR GIBBS, HEALTH COMMISSIONER FARLEY ANNOUNCE THAT ONE IN THREE RESTAURANTS IN NEW YORK CITY AUTOMATICALLY SAVED MONEY BY EARNING AND KEEPING 'A'S - OVER $3 MILLION IN FINES WAIVED OVER LAST SIX MONTHS
Mayor Delivers on State of the City Commitment as 8,000 Restaurants See Fines Waived
New Survey Shows that 90 Percent of New Yorkers Approve of Restaurant Grading System, Vast Majority Use Grades as Dining Guide
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley today announced on the year anniversary of restaurant letter grading that one-third of the city's restaurant owners saved an estimated $3 million by earning A grades when inspected in the last six months. As the Mayor had committed in the January 2011 State of the City address, any restaurant that earned an A - either on its initial inspection or on a re-inspection - would not have to pay one penny in fines for any sanitary violations found on that inspection. As a result of this incentive 8,000 high-mark establishments saw their fines waived. Currently, sixty-nine percent of the city's graded eateries have an A grade for meeting the City's high standard for sanitation and food safety. One such A-recipient is Spark's Deli in Long Island City where the Mayor was joined today by Deputy Mayor.Gibbs, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, Health Commissioner Farley, and restaurant owners Antonio and Jose Araujo.
"I promised in my State of the City that restaurants that earned A-grades over the last 6 months would be relieved of fines," said Mayor Bloomberg. "On this one-year anniversary of restaurant grading, I am proud to say that the system is working for customers and for restaurants. Not only has the City made restaurants cleaner, safer and more transparent for consumers, but the fine relief has saved 8,000 restaurant owners about $3 million."
The Health Department today released a one-year report that includes results of a survey, conducted by Baruch College, which shows that 90 percent of all New Yorkers approve of the program to post letter grades prominently in restaurant windows. The poll results also indicate that the public is widely aware of restaurant grades and uses them in deciding where to eat, with 70 percent of New Yorkers seeing grades at the entrances of restaurants and 65 percent of those using the window grades to inform their dining choices all or most of the time.
For each restaurant grading cycle, restaurants are inspected up to two times. Those that do not earn an A on their first inspection do not receive a grade and are instead re-inspected approximately one month later, a practice designed to promote rapid improvement in food safety practices. That re-inspection is graded. The grading system is proving to encourage restaurants to improve their practices: at the program's six-month mark, only 27 percent of restaurants had earned As on initial inspection. Today, nearly 40 percent do. This improvement is seen across the board as 38 percent of restaurants that received grades in the B range on initial inspection received an A grade on reinspection, and 72 percent of restaurants that received grades in the C range on initial inspection improved to A or B on re-inspection. Restaurants that improved to an A were relieved of fines for minor food safety violations. As an additional incentive, restaurants with higher grades have longer cycles between inspections: restaurants that earn A grades on their initial inspection are inspected approximately a year after the first cycle, B grades are inspected approximately six months after the first cycle and C grades are inspected approximately four months after the first cycle.
At the year anniversary of letter grades, nearly 90 percent of the City's 24,000 restaurants have been inspected and have received letter grades for posting. Of restaurants that have received grades, 69 percent have As, 15 percent have Bs, 4 percent have C's and 12 percent are posting a grade pending sign that notes their final grade has not yet been determined by a Health Tribunal judge that reviews appeals. As of July 5, Notices of Violation that are issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are being heard at divisions of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), as a result of Executive Order 148 signed by the Mayor in June. This change will make it easier for business owners and members of the public to contest tickets. OATH is exploring the best ways to expand hearing options for recipients of tickets, which could include hearings being offered online or by telephone and hearings being held at local offices outside Manhattan. OATH is independent of the agencies that write tickets.
"Like many other New Yorkers, I have used letter grades to make dining choices throughout the past year," said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. "The restaurant grading system has been a successful means of incentivizing restaurant owners to improve and maintain best food safety practices as well as communicating that information to customers. Our goal is for New York City to offer not only the tastiest food, but also the healthiest and safest."
"We had two goals with letter grading: to give customers information that they want as they make their dining choices and to provide an incentive for restaurants to achieve the best food safety practices," said Commissioner Farley. "The survey results and the inspection results tell me that we are making progress toward both of those goals."
"The restaurant grading system has brought increased cleanliness to our eateries and greater accountability to the city's health inspections," said Senator Gianaris. "One year after its implementation, we can declare this policy a success and look for ways to enhance its effectiveness even further."
"Restaurants are a huge part of the City's vitality, both for the diversity and culture they add and for the jobs they create," said Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith. "Waiving fines for the considerable number of restaurant owners trying to do the right thing shows we're not only encouraging compliance, but we want the industry to succeed."
The restaurant letter grading program, 18 months in planning, and now one-year old, reflects input from restaurateurs, restaurant associations, food safety experts, and the dining public. The Health Department meets regularly with restaurateurs and convenes a quarterly Food Safety Technical Advisory Committee that advises the Department on its food protection rules. Over time, the Department will explore what types of food hazards persist in some restaurants, what can be done to reduce their occurrences, and how the grading program might be adjusted to promote the safest possible dining. The Department of Health has also published materials such as "What to Expect When You're Inspected" and "Every Restaurant Can Achieve an A" in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. Additionally, the grading program has also provided a new incentive for restaurant operators to train their employees. Enrollment in the Health Department's food protection courses continues at peak levels with 39,000 supervisors being trained since the announcement of letter grading in December 2009; 10,000 more than a comparable period before letter grading began.
New Yorkers who are interested in learning more about the inspection scores for their favorite dining establishments can search restaurant letter grading on NYC.gov or call 311. The restaurant inspection website is continually being enhanced to make the letter grading program even more transparent. Inspections are now categorized by grade and inspection type. Consumers, who are using the site at a seven-fold increase from a year ago, can search for restaurants by borough, zip code, neighborhood, cuisine type and grade.
Stu Loeser / Samantha Levine (212) 788-2958
Susan Craig / Chanel Caraway (Health)
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