Although dining out is usually a pleasure, from time to time a troubling question may occur to patrons: How clean is the kitchen? Does the staff comply with health regulations? Do employees follow safe food handling processes?
Starting this month, Hartford is making it much easier for diners to know how any restaurant in the city rates in health safety: Inspection grades must now be posted in the establishment.
Why hasn't this been done before? Such a public restaurant scoring system is almost certain to improve not only safety but customer confidence, and to enhance the capital city's growing reputation as a go-to place for fine dining. New York City has posted restaurant grades since 2010, with good results. Some Connecticut communities also do it.
Under the new setup, proposed by Mayor Pedro Segarra and approved by the city council last year, all food service establishments (except school lunchrooms, food trucks, hospital cafeterias and the like) will be rated. Those given an A or a B must post the score. B-rated restaurants may address the problems and ask for a retest; those with a C or worse will automatically be retested and may face closure if improvements aren't made quickly.
In Hartford, checking restaurant safety is no small matter. Each year, according to a city spokeswoman, about 200 inspections result in a failing grade, although the vast majority of restaurants pass after the problems are corrected and a reinspection is made.
Some restaurateurs have welcomed the new posting system. Others have fretted that different inspectors might unfairly use different rating standards -- and they have a point. In such testing, consistency is a must.
Publicly posting a restaurant's safety and sanitation grade is a step in the right direction. Hartford might consider going further by adopting the system used by the Farmington Valley Health District, which not only requires a placard in the restaurant but also lists the grades on the district's website. Such lists make it easy to compare among restaurants.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at