Inspection grades hit Hartford

An unsanitary restaurant can go a long way toward damaging a restaurant's customer satisfaction and loyalty.

An unsanitary restaurant can go a long way toward damaging a restaurant's customer satisfaction and loyalty. Recognizing this, Hartford, Connecticut's health and human services department will be enacting new rules that insure an establishments' health grades remain up to snuff, the Hartford Courant reports.

Staring in January, Hartford restaurants will be required to post a letter grade to represent how they fared during their most recent health inspection. These evaluations are typically performed three times a year, breaking down a restaurant's hygienic practices and methods of storage and food preparation.

The scores will reflect standard school-based conversions - a range of 90 to 100 would be an A and an 80 to 89 would be a B. Upon receiving the grade, store owners must display their scores in a front window, a display case on the outside front wall or on a drive-through menu board.

"We read some articles and research papers that indicated the quality, hygienically speaking, increases with initiatives similar to these," Raul Pino, Acting Director of the city's health and human services department, told the news source. "There's room for friendly competition when you display the grades."

The media outlet added that the department considered adding a "C" grade, but figured it could become harmful to businesses.

Richard Rosenthal, President of the Max Restaurant Group, believed that the grades will be beneficial because "Restaurateurs and guests alike are very sensitive to the cleanliness of a restaurant, so it's a good thing that customers can be guaranteed there's been an inspection."

However, Michael Picard, General Manager of Hot Tomatoes on Union Place, feels the opposite.

"The inspection is a snapshot of one day when someone walks in," he told the media outlet. "At that time, any list of things could happen - your cooler could be down and things could loose their temperature - and you'll get a grade based on that. Health inspection from town to town and inspector to inspector is very subjective and that's a dangerous thing."

The system won't apply to school and hospital cafeterias or nonprofits.

Health grades are already being given out in other Connecticut cities such as Stamford and Farmington, as well as outside the state in Los Angeles and New York.

NY1 reports that in New York's first year using a restaurant rating program, 69 percent of eateries received an A, while 15 percent recorded Bs.