It is important that Anchorage consumers have the resources to make informed decisions.
Usually we decide which restaurant to dine at based on the quality of the food and the friendliness of the waitstaff. Cleanliness is usually just a superficial thing that is a factor. If the plates appear clean and there is not an inch of dust we often do not think about it.
As a former restaurant manager and someone who does not like to get sick, I notice the safety side of things a little more. It was always my number one priority to keep my guests and co-workers safe from food-borne illnesses.
Before I dine out at a new-to-me restaurant, I check out the municipality’s website for their most recent inspection. But it’s far from perfect. It should be much easier to navigate. The reports are buried and hard to find. And no “grade” is available, just a list of the violations with no indication of action taken.
Recently KTUU has had a couple of “Dirty Diner” segments that feature restaurants with low scores. (Fun Fact: A search for the segments provides four stories about filthy diners and then a story about Joe Miller.) They also had the segment running a couple of years ago. The violations are ridiculous and the attitude of the restaurant managers/owners is even more appalling.
A restaurant can have multiple so-called critical violations and still stay open. Take Kriner’s Diner for instance. I dined there recently and made the mistake of sitting at the counter. From there, I had a good view of the kitchen. I had to stop eating when someone in the kitchen sneezed into their arm and keep on going about their business.
I later looked up their health department scores. Tons of violations; all of them grossed me out. Had I known that it was not a safe place to eat I would have never dined there. Had I known they had so many critical violations I would have chosen another dining option. I did email the restaurant owner and received no response. I will take that as a cue that Kriners Diner #1 priority is not the customer.
The young and elderly, and those with weak immune systems, can get dangerously sick with food-borne illnesses. There is absolutely no excuse for an establishment that exists to provide a product we consume should fail to provide safe and sanitary conditions.
This city regulates everything from traffic signals to building codes to where you can smoke. Why can’t it simply give us a quick, easy way to know if a restaurant is safe to eat at? A simple score on the front door of a restaurant would be very helpful. The score could reflect the inspections’ findings. It could decrease with violations and increase with compliance. It would give consumers more power to protect themselves.
Some sort of scoring program along these lines could incentivize restaurants to do everything to keep their scores up, which means keeping a close watch on sanitation issues. A high score would improve business and give people a reason to dine there versus the competition. Lower scores would encourage market competition. Yelp and other websites help collect consumer-based information and reviews on the food and service. This seems like a natural extension, and it’s already being done in other places around the country and world.
Have you dined in a city with a system like this? Did it (or would it) influence your dining decisions? Would you support it in your city? Or is blessing your food enough to make it safe?