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Restaurant Inspections - Are They Too Strict?

Would you eat at a restaurant with a failing health inspection grade? Are you more likely to visit an establishment with a perfect score?


Restaurants and other dining-out establishments have to meet some pretty strict requirements to stay in business. After all, who wants to eat at a place where rodents might be scurrying about in the kitchen?

Some restaurant managers say the scores aren't always fair, and that inspectors often slam them for minor violations.

So our Patch Question of the Week is: do health inspections matter to you? Do you faithfully peruse the inspection reports before you go out to eat? Are county health departments too picky in their reports, or not picky enough?

Tell us what you think in the comments area below this article.

And the next time you're thinking about eating out, check out some of these recent health inspection reports from around metro Atlanta:

burnsaj1 August 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Easy answer. No. Restaurant operators always complain about inspections being too tough. Your previous posts (http://buckhead.patch.com/articles/hashiguchi-sushi-jr-aces-health-inspection and http://buckhead.patch.com/articles/palm-restaurant-earns-high-health-inspection-score and http://buckhead.patch.com/articles/bones-scores-an-a-on-health-inspection ) shows that restaurants of all stripes can ace inspections. And sometimes the restaurants who should be able to ace inspections have continuous trouble ( http://buckhead.patch.com/articles/buckhead-pizza-iii-scores-72-on-health-inspection ) . What does it say when a Krystal can score a 96, but a casual restaurant scores a 72. Sounds like the inspectors are doing their job, and restaurants need to take it more seriously. Something as simple as "Person in charge present, demonstrates knowledge, and performs duties " by hiring a manager with the correct training isn't overly complicated. If Krystal can do that little task then it shouldn't be a problem for a professionally run local restaurant.
Julia Ewen August 23, 2012 at 11:27 AM
I don't hunt for the health inspection certificate when I go to a restaurant, but on the other hand, I do read the articles that report the inspection scores for my favorite restaurants. Whether I stop going to the restaurant depends on what it was that caused the violation demerits. If it is problems with basic sanitation or handwashing, I probably wouldn't go back until I saw a report that the problems were corrected. Other things, like a gasket that needs replacing are not quite so much of a concern to me. Failure to store/serve foods at correction temperatures also is a deal-breaker for me--no telling what microscopic flora and fauna may be breeding. Cooking at home does not necessarily avoid the sort of problems that restaurants are cited for. Food that comes from grocery stores is exposed to rodents and insects and handling by unclean hands before we get it home and how many of us practice safe and sanitary storage and handling and preparation in our own kitchens? Most of us don't develop debilitating or fatal illness as a result of that; It bears thinking about, but not obsessing. Granny used to say, after all, that we all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die. I must still be working on mine, because I'm still here.
Bob August 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I do read the inspection reports, and that would give me thought as to whether I would visit that particular location. I have seen too many cooks/chefs using their hands to mix food, then touch a door handle, or wipe their hands on their apron. This is especially true of the cooks on the Food Network, but it happens in restaurants as well, and to me, that is just plain nasty.
Meinert August 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I've worked in kitchens in younger days. I would keep inspections strict, unless a particular criterion is proved to be nonsensical in its rigidity or its application.
Henry Batten August 23, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I find your inspection reporting to be very helpful in deciding which restaurants to patronize.
JG August 23, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Strict is good. 48 million people get food poisoning evevery year in the US, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3000 die. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm239907.htm
Chris M. August 23, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Of course health inspections are important but I've noticed in Georgia that they also cover building code issues as well. I've also noticed that the scoring system they use is a bit odd. An inspector could find a rat eating cheese in your walk-in and deduct 3 points but if you have a kitchen sink with a broken faucet, you would lose 20 points. Don't get me wrong, a bad score is a bad score but it might not be for the reasons you think.
JamesMichael August 23, 2012 at 04:40 PM
There is no reason... no reason, whatsoever, why a restaurant cannot earn a score in the mid-90's. Anything below that suggests that manager/owner is either incompetent, or thinks he can get away with something. Either way, the establishment should be closed IMMEDIATELY!, and until problems have been corrected. No "two weeks to clean up your act" crap... those two weeks put customer at risk. If a businessman can't offer a safe and sanitary product then he should be thrown out of business. Period. Oh... by the way. We make it a point to check the posted rating with every visit. If it is not plainly visible, we ask to see it. If the rating is anything less than 93, we walk... and we let manager know precisely why. Filth. We don't need it. We don't want to see it. We don't want to eat it. And we're sure as hell not going to patronize some business that doesn't clear understand that.
Mary Trzos August 23, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Mary T. As the previous owner of Famous Pub, I can tell you from first hand experience that the scoring/rating system is way out of line. Chris M. is 100% correct on this issue. Some of the deductions are ridiculous. To answer burnsaj1's statement: "What does it say when a Krystal can score a 96, but a casual restaurant scores a 72."....I can tell you exactly what that means. The newer, chain restaurants ususally euqal 'new' applicances, 'new' buildings. etc. etc. While the more established older ones don't have that advantage of all 'new' equipment. They take points for having worn gaskets, scratches in the sink, loose handles on a door, etc....if these things were replaced to meet the 'standards' required....YOUR food COST would go up....then you'd complain about that....so the next time you are looking at a restaurant score....look at the 'reason' the score is low....I strongly believe in Health Codes and that they should be adhered to, but some of the 'reasons' for the bad scores have very little to do with your safety. Use some common sense when your juding your eating venues.....
JamesMichael August 23, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Oh, great! For a buck less I can get projectile vomit and explosive diarrhea along with your salad. Yuk.
Lisa Edgars August 23, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I have to say I love this post along with all of the comments. To answer your question, I say no... I read the Patch often to see which restaurant pass and fail quit often. When my family and I first move to the East Atlanta Village area we went to a sushi spot call Rusans (in Edgewood) and got really bad food poisoning. If there were articles like this out there, you guys probably would have saved us from such a disgusting experience.
Clicker August 23, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Achtung! You must be a real joy.
FM Fats August 23, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I like the policy in NYC. The letter grade must be posted on the front window. You can usually see it from a passing bus or taxi.
JG August 23, 2012 at 10:50 PM
That sounds goodto me.
JG August 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Many times people are food poisoned and theybthink they have the flu or a stomach virus...i owned and ran a restaurant for a long time. If I seea cook who does not have a thermometer in his front pocket, I am on my guard at once! Temp is critical for cold and hot. There is a high incidence of Salmonella in poultry. I would not eatbground turkey on a bet, nor allow it in my kitchen. Google it. With that said a lot of food poisoning occurs in home kitchens. People handle raw meat and fail to thoroughly wash their hands. The use a kitchen utensil, that has toched raw meat, cutting boards, sinks ,refrigerator handles etc etcetc.. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2103/ANSI-8401web.pdf
JG August 23, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Also, some of the most dangerous foods are leafy greens and cantaloupe. At this moment there are at least 2 nationwide recalls of cantaloupe dur to bacterial contamination.
JG August 23, 2012 at 11:07 PM
If you buy triple washed leafy greens at the grocery, do not be tempted to wash them again. They will be less safe after you wash them!!
Dale August 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM
The problem is we are still at the mercy of the human inspector. Each one does things their own way. There are far too many things in the code to inspect on any given visit so each inspector has their "pet" issues and if you violate those, you get a bad score. I worked in a restaurant where as an inspector walked in to the kitchen, he passed a busboy eating a piece of bread in the service station - a violation of three points. After inspecting the kitchen, he came back out, saw the same busboy eating the same piece of bread and deducted another three points. As mentioned earlier, some of the point assignments are out of whack. What is needed is a fair, consistent system. That means taking it out of the hands of counties and giving it to the state. No one need lose their job but one agency needs to oversee the inspections, not 159. Make all those county health inspectors state employees, trained by the state, and all the fees we pay the counties can go to the state to pay for it. No new taxes/fees. Then with consistent training (and a logical scoring system) the score I read in Savannah will hold the same meaning as the score I see in Rome.
Sandra G. August 24, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I always look for the inspection reports at a restaurant. If it's below 92, I leave. I also read the entire report to see what the issues are. I don't just look at the number and leave. If it's a broken gasket or missing light bulb, etc. I will stay. If it's mold in the ice maker, food kept at wrong temps & no hand soap - I run out of the door.
Mack Hawkins August 24, 2012 at 02:45 AM
I agree!
Mack Hawkins August 24, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Amen!

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