Op-Ed: Restaurant grading system overcooked

"Schools are not like restaurants," New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said when announcing that she was ditching the controversial Bloomberg-era letter-grade system for public schools.

Actually, restaurants are a lot more like schools than the chancellor may want to admit, in that letter grades are punitive to restaurants and they often tarnish reputations unfairly—just as the chancellor claims they do to schools.

And now that Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration will eliminate letter grades for the city's public schools, the NYC Hospitality Alliance urges City Hall to take this opportunity to focus on the restaurant letter-grade system.

While letter grades may be popular with the dining public, the reality is they mislead diners because they represent a snapshot in time. Grades do not accurately reflect a restaurant's sanitary conditions by the time the health inspector walks out the door, never mind months later, when that same grade hangs in a restaurant's window.

Recent changes to restaurant grading were a step in the right direction, but more reforms are needed. Currently, in a city restaurant inspection, zero to 13 violation points equal a grade of A, 14 to 27 points a B, and more than 27 points a C. Yet there are more than 1,000 points assigned to violations in the health code. So, passing 96% of the inspected items can still result in a C grade. Confused? We are, too.

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