Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stamford Restaurant Ratings: First Appear Useful, Then Useless, Then Useful Again!

As you know if you read the Stamford Advocate, the city is now posting its restaurant inspection results online.
Below 80 is one hat: poor compliance!
80-96 is two hats and acceptable compliance, and 90-100 is three hats, best compliance. The overlap from 90-96 has to do with the type of violation- click on graphic to right for more details, or see Advocate article.
Sounds like a great idea, but when I read further, here is the problem: the patron has no idea if the restaurant got a poor rating for something important, like food being stored improperly, or something smaller, like a back door being left open. See quote from article:
Sometimes the smallest circumstance can trigger a low score and poor compliance rating, managers said. A March inspection at Bennett's Steak and Fish on Spring Road left the establishment with a one-hat rating, denoting poor compliance. A ceiling tile was missing and the back door was open, manager Matt Salvatore said.
"It was such little things," Salvatore said. "But again, coming from someone living in Stamford, I like knowing when my family goes out to eat, every restaurant is being dealt with that way."

I mean, first of all, close your back door because flies can get in, but second, I agree with the dude. Something not so egregious can make your restaurant look like a total one-hat dump. Now, the ratings seem useless.
However, I do appreciate how motivating that one-hat possibility will be to make sure all details are squared away. Therefore, these at-a-second-glance useless ratings are, at a third glance, probably a great idea. As the article says, The site shows many local eateries that turned poor scores into excellent ones, such as Capriccio Cafe on Bedford Street, Amore Restaurant on Hope Street and Coromandel Cuisine of India on Broad Street.

Go, Stamford! There is nothing I like more than seeing people and places strong-armed into following rules that protect their patron's tummies.

The ratings are actually kinda complex- like, you can't read it once and fully understand and remember the system (especially if your baby is crabbing in his crib while you are blogging about it). Quote:
Stamford used the beaming face icon because the 100-point scale can be misleading, city health inspector Ronald Miller warned. Restaurants with a score below 80, or a single four-point violation automatically fail, so a restaurant with a score of 96 could have failed its inspection, he said.
On the 62-item inspection sheet, there are 10 possible four-point violations, such as food storage at improper temperature and inadequate sanitation practices. If unchecked, four-point violations can lead to food-borne illness.

I mean, geez, all those numbers. OK, must go take care of tired baby!


Streets of Stamford said...

I think that Amore is one of Stamford's hidden gems. Their service is super-friendly, their pastas are delicious, and, according to the Stamford Pizza Tour, their pizza is very good, too! You gotta love the spicy garlic bread on the table!

Anonymous said...

I think this is an interesting idea, however there is another problem, not all inspectors are the same. One will not issue a failure for any reason, another will find all the 1 point violations. Even though they are state trained and certified, it is most times an individual choice.

Whitemist said...

Most restaurateurs get fairly testy when it comes to inspections. I would call it arrogance, most HD people are there to help and things usually get ugly after the third visit and they do not fix things. There is a degree of individuality in the inspection process, but if the manager/owner has good attitude, it usually goes okay and they might actually learn something.

Magdalene Perez said...

The smiley chef faces are so cute!

Stamford, the workin' city? said...

Do they have frowns for the ones that are really bad?
Considering some places I have eaten, a frown would be very appropriate.

Strictly Stamford said...

Sounds like the Health department made a mistake and the State had to step in on this. Advocate article!

Stamford Talk said...

Hi Strictly Stamford! (I like the name.) Didn't the article just say they now have 4 possible ratings rather than 3? I was looking for a bigger change from the title of the article, but I think that was it. I still wish they'd post WHAT the violations were.

Anonymous said...

Margot had a great rebuttal in the letters in the Advocate today (or yesterday?) the rating process is tainted/skewed/not fair!

Stamford Talk said...

Thanks for the heads up, Anonymous. I'd be very mad if I were her, too- in the letter, she's angry bc the health dept site lists her as having 2 stars (poor), when on reinspection, she got 98 with only one small infraction- weak sanitizing solution behind the bar. So, the site is inaccurate... how annoying!