How do I communicate what a B grade really means to my guests? Should I tell them exactly why we didn't get an A?
– Restaurant Manager, New York, NY
Honestly. You should communicate honestly, especially knowing that the guest can easily access the report online in New York and most other municipalities and can even get it through an app while sitting in your restaurant.
Like a lot of guest concerns, they are unpleasant to handle, but ultimately better than not hearing them. A guest who asks you directly to explain your health inspection score is one you can win over, whereas one who sees something less than an A and walks away is lost revenue.
While you shouldn’t attempt to obscure the violations that gave you the B grade, there are some violations that guests generally understand as slip-ups: dented cans, missing tiles in the floor or ceiling, food out of temperature, or no certified food handler on-site, while others will have them running for the door: rodents, roaches, poor hand washing, sick workers, and so on.
Within the realm of honesty, emphasize those violations that are least off-putting, explain what you are doing to correct the problems before reinspection, and invite the guest to inspect your kitchen (assuming it is one in which you can take pride) for her- or himself to show that you are proud of the work you do and have nothing to hide. It won’t work for all guests, but if they are taking the time to ask about your score, they have an interest in dining with you.