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Government/Politics

New Health Inspection System Will Score SA Restaurants

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Joey Palacios
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Texas Public Radio
Willy B's Pizza and More in Main Plaza

  

The San Antonio City Council has unanimously adopted a new method for grading the cleanliness of restaurants.   It includes an optional pilot program to display a letter grade of A-through-C visible to the public in restaurants.  

It’s lunchtime at Willy B’s Pizza and More near Main Plaza. Employees slice large pies as customers place orders. Owner Vanessa Box welcomes the new health inspection system and letter grade placards. “I think it’s a good idea, in fact at Willy B’s we already post our [score],” she says.

Metro Health’s previous system included a 0-100 scale with 0 being a perfect score for cleanliness.  Now 100 is the top score.   Box says it’s less confusing. “Mentally wise, you start off at a good grade and it’s yours to lose and yours to keep it up,” she adds.

During Thursday’s council meeting, District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said San Antonio is a growing culinary destination and the new placard would make decisions easier. “We really, really need to look at the voluntary placard and make it less confusing for the people who want to go to the restaurants and who just wants to see ‘is this a good one, or not.’"

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Credit Jordy Canseco / Courtesy photo
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Courtesy photo
Major cities like New York have letter grades implemented in restaurants like this one in Staten Island.

In addition to the numerical score restaurants in June can choose to post a placard with a letter grade A-through-C given by health inspectors. The letter grade could eventually become mandatory. Metro Health Director Dr. Vincent Nathan says some restaurants don’t want to do that. “However, we don’t know how many will do it, that’s why we’re going to go through a year of trial,” he says.

The letter grade will be displayed based on score.

  • A = 0-10 demerits
  • B = 11-20 demerits
  • C = 21 or more demerits

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Credit San Antonio Metro Health
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San Antonio Metro Health
Sample placard

Chad Carey runs several big name restaurants including Hot Joy, Barbaro, and The Monterrey. He doesn’t think the letter grades really inform the public.  “What does a “B” mean? Does a “B” mean that they have the wrong signage posted or does a “B” mean that they have substandard refrigeration? Those are two vastly different things and that gets factored into the score more or less the exact same way,” he contends.

Details of individual infractions are available online and will also be posted elsewhere in the restaurant.

Texas Department of State Health Services has recommended restaurants use this new rating system.  San Antonio will be the largest city in Texas doing that. Smaller cities like Kerville have a smiliar system.