5 On Your Side

State Launches New Restaurant Grade Cards Monday

Posted July 30, 2004 1:59 a.m. EDT

— What is the sanitation grade of your favorite restaurant? Most people look for the grade posted near the front door. How we see those grades is about to change.

Restaurant grade cards in North Carolina are getting a new look. Starting Monday, inspectors will start using cards that are black and white. The letter grade and numeric score will be equal size, located side by side.

The cards replace the current ones with blue "As," green "Bs" and red "Cs." This change is the culmination of more than two years of negotiations.

Five On Your Side showed the new card to some restaurant customers.

"You don't have to go squinting and looking for it. I like it," Debi Moscato said.

"I think it's great, because being that you can see it, in particular, the score, because sometimes it's an "A" and a low "A." So it's nice to know that you can actually see the score and not just the grade," Loretta Coble said.

One of the main reasons the state is making the change is that not all "As" are equal. There is not much difference between an "A" of 90 and a "B" of 89.5; however, there is a big difference between a score of 90 and 100.

The state began studying the new card idea 2½ years ago.

At that time, Five On Your Side aired a story suggesting if the goal was to provide more information, why not have both a large number and letter?

Many health directors and inspectors later proposed such a card, and soon after, the state approved it.

Graham Byrd supervises restaurant inspectors in Harnett County. His only concern is that since the card it no longer in color, it will not stand out.

"I think it's an improvement in some areas, maybe not in others," Byrd said." It's hard enough with a lot of the other business licenses and everything else that's hanging around on the walls of restaurants for this to kind of mingle in."

The black and white cards seem plain to restaurant manager Kevin Thrower, too. Thrower says the perspective probably depends the score you get.

"If you're getting a bad score, of course you don't want it visible at all," he said. "We don't mind. Make it bright, make it visible, make it bigger. We don't care. We're not ashamed of our score."

The cards will be replaced as restaurants come up for inspection, so the change will be gradual. A number of health departments are still waiting for the new cards.