Restaurant inspections to change next year

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The familiar sound of critical violations in the Restaurant Report will change in about a year. The state Health Department is going to change the way it inspects restaurants.

Instead of listing critical and non-critical violations, the Health Department is considering a system of looking at 27 food poisoning risk factors, and giving a report card that shows what a restaurant did right and what it did wrong.

"It gives them credit, instead of being a totally negative report of 'you didn't do this right, you didn't do this right.' Now they're getting, 'hey, you're doing this right,'" explains Gary Hagy, Director of the Health Department's Division of Food and Environmental Services

"I think that's a plus. That would give us feed back and constructive criticism is a plus," said Ryan Rice, manager of a Long John Silver's restaurant.

Viewers often ask why Virginia doesn't use letter grades, such as A, B, C, like California and New York do.

"It seems like if you get a B, the public thinks you're not running a very good restaurant," answered Gary Hagy, Director, Division of Food and Environmental Services at the Virginia Health Department.

Hagy says they feared restaurants would fix little problems to improve their grade rather than fix larger problems.

"Rather than have the government give you an A, B, or C, let's just give you the information. Let's just let you look at the inspection, you see everything we see, you see what we saw and you can make up your own mind," he said.

The restaurant industry gives the idea of letter grades mixed reviews.

"I like that because it provides an average over time and even though a restaurant might have gotten a few violations, you can go back and look if they mostly got A's or B's," said Chris DiLauro, owner of Bacchus on Main.

"Just the letter A, B, C or D is not as transparent. It doesn't give you the full information," said Katie Hellebush with the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association.

So there won't be letter grades. And the General Assembly just killed a bill that would require restaurants to post their inspections. Instead you'll still find them on the health department's website.

We will keep you posted as the State Health Department launches its new inspection system in about a year.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.