Jewish Journal

Restaurant Grades: E for Effort

by Joel Chasnoff

April 30, 2009 | 12:52 pm

I see these signs in the window of every L.A. eatery, and I have to ask: are these straight grades, or do they grade on the curve? For example, if Mike’s Pizza Shack has an “A” in the window, can I be certain they passed at least 90% of the cleanliness tests, or is it possible they passed only 70% of the tests but that since none of the other restaurants surveyed that day scored more than 60%, Mike’s Pizza Shack still gets an “A”? (It makes a difference.)

And the whole letter-grade system—how long will it last? Progressive education is all the rage. So I suspect it won’t be long before a new, progressive grading system emerges. Maybe something Montessori-style, where instead of letter grades in the window, you’ll see long, contemplative Health Inspector evaluations that focus not on the level of hygiene, but the restaurant’s attitude toward it: “Mike’s Pizza Shack plays well with other restaurants. The staff, already bilingual, enjoys kneading dough. On occasion, employees forget to wash hands after using restrooms—but never on purpose. Like all problems, this can be solved not with punishment, but love.”

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