There has been considerable discussion in the forums this month about health department scores, and how much they really matter. I was in Los Angeles at the time, where they do things a little bit different. Instead of hiding scores in a database that no one is likely to see, restaurants receive a letter grade, which they are required to post in the window. Grading procedures are standard, with 90-100% an “A”, 80 – 89% a “B”, etc. The signs are about 12″ tall, and have a bright blue letter, that is easy to see when you are passing on the street.
In my informal survey driving around town, I never saw any score below an A. I’m wondering if it is the threat of public humiliation that keeps kitchens on their toes, or if the health department in Los Angeles grades easier than Multhnomah. Either way, it is interesting, and food for thought.
I had some time to do a bit more research, and found the LA County health department has a database much like Multhnomah’s. I pulled up some random restaurants, and am struck by how many violations a restaurant can have, and still receive a score above 90%.
Another interesting feature about the LA Country website, is the bi-annual list of Restaurant Closures, along with the underlying reason: Vermin infestation, unsafe food temperature, no hot water, etc. I wonder how many restaurants get closed by the health department here?
When I was working at L’Ermitage 30 years ago, inspections weren’t nearly as stringent as they are today. While every station was always spotless, and the kitchen was washed from top to bottom every night, the way ingredients were stored, and the temperature of sauces wasn’t really measured. It was cleanliness that everyone cared about. Still, I don’t think we ever killed anyone, because we used common sense!
As I spent time in other restaurants over the years, the rules became progressively tougher. How things have changed!