by Bovey Rao ’19
Many larger cities have adopted standardized grading systems for their restaurants. Frequent inspections made restaurants maintain higher standards of operation and cleanliness to earn their respective grade. These ratings improved their respective food scenes in terms of quality, but many concerns about consistency and corruption were voiced with this process. The power of the inspectors to give a restaurant a lower cleanliness rating could destroy a business. Similarly, some restaurants might be coerced into bribes and other underhanded methods to boost their letter grades. As Boston prepares to roll out their own grading system, I hope that the city is aware of potential repercussions.
Early next year, Boston is on track to begin grading restaurants on a scale from A to C (with A being the best and C being the worst). Restaurants that receive the C rating are then given 30 days to repair any issues and then be regraded by health inspectors. However, these ratings would not posted on storefronts like in many other metropolitan areas; instead, they would found online on a public database. This proposal now seemingly loses it merit because these ratings would not be visible. It is tedious to have to check a website when trying to figure out where to eat. At the same time, it would allow for restaurants of Boston to truly understand how the system works and to prepare themselves for it.
This ultimately brings up the issue of food safety and regulation. It is reasonable to expect restaurants to serve food from sanitary conditions in a comfortable and clean environment. If an establishment fails to meet those expectations, a potential customer would like to know. The immediate problem is to explain what the respective rating means. What differs between an A rating and a B rating? Does having a B rating change whether or not a person is likely to dine at a restaurant?
However, from a restauranteur’s perspective, it is also frustrating and sometimes hindering to have to adhere to standardized practices. Given the arbitrary nature of inspections, there is the issue of consistency and timeliness in visits. Fortunately, the provision allowing for a 30 day period to improve allows for this to be a non-issue. While many restaurants may protest these demands, the accommodations provided by the city are fair and justified. It is currently hard to tell whether or not the changes are going to help or harm the Boston food scene, but I believe that having a standardized restaurant health code will ultimately benefit the city.