The city's restaurant letter grade system turns 5-years-old this week, and it's giving New Yorkers a good present: cleaner eateries.
The city's health department, which issued the grades after Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for the program, said about 95% of the Big Apple's 24,000 restaurants post an A grade, 38% jump from end of 2010. The number of health related violations have also dropped since the cards were issued in July 2010, including a 18% decrease in mice violations between 2014 and 2015.
"We've seen, what we would hope would happen," said Daniel Kass, the deputy commissioner for environmental health. "We're leveraging the public in the restaurant grading system and having them vote with their feet."
The city inspects all new restaurants and conducts a numeric grading system where the eatery gets points for health code violations, such as unsanitary conditions, or unclean tools. A score of 0 to 13 points results in an A grade, 14 to 27 points earn a B and 28 or more points get a C.
If a restaurant doesn't get an A grade, the score is ungraded and owners have the opportunity to have a second inspection a month later, giving them time to rectify their violations. If they get a B or C grade during that inspection, they can chose to either display the grade or put a grade pending sign while they contest the decision.
Kass said that no restaurant wants to be the one that has a bad grade so employees have stepped up their practices and taken the time to learn the city's rules and regulations. In addition, the city has made it easier for restaurant owners who face violations with fixed penalties and options to contest inspections by mail or online.
The city's restaurants paid $26.8 million in fines so far this fiscal year, which represents a 18% decline from the same period last year.
"The one remarkable thing [about these statistics] is that restaurants continue to improve," Kass said.
The commissioner, however, said there still is a way to go, since 58% of restaurants score an A grade during their first inspection.
"We want to get that 58% up so they don't need that additional inspection," he said.
Here are some other stats from the health department:
58% of restaurants that get a B grade improve to an A during the second inspection round.
45% of restaurants that get a B grade improve to an A during the second inspection round
In the 2014 fiscal year, 1,208 restaurants were closed following an inspection. In fiscal year 2011, there were 1,322 closings.