When a restaurant's "score" is not the score | News
A Tennessee restaurant should never score below a 90. Period. Any conscientious restaurant manager or fastidious health department inspector (they like to be called "environmentalists") will tell you that.
However, the fact is sometimes a restaurant's critical violation is really an environmentalist's judgment call.
Sometimes, they get it wrong.
Like the time a health department environmentalist slapped a Mexican restaurant with a critical violation for "improperly labeled" containers sitting on the pantry shelf with food items.
The containers' labels read "ajo" and "cebolla," respectively.
The restaurant's kitchen staff had labeled them in Spanish because, surprise, the staff speaks Spanish. You know, being a Mexican place and all.
But the environmentalist docked the establishment for not labeling the containers in English.
Funny. I haven't found that rule in the Tennessee health code.
But the violation cost the Mexican restaurant a full letter grade.
The code leaves a little wiggle room for health department environmentalists. In doing so, it gives them the choice between two powers that are mutually exclusive: strict interpretation and tender mercy.
Which one an environmentalist chooses may determine whether a broom left propped up in the mop sink gets a warning -- or enough docked points to fail inspection.
"The good inspectors (again, read: environmentalists) will want to develop a relationship with the restaurants they inspect and the people who run them," said a restaurant owner whom I respect. "They want to help managers and employees make the restaurant a better restaurant."
The bad ones want to show a restaurant who's boss right off the bat, like the one who nickeled-and-dimed a Millington restaurant for dishwasher sanitizer that was barely a couple parts per million off, when the washer was clearly sudsy and cleaning dishes.
That's a time for tender mercy.
I explained the health department's scoring system in a previous column. Get up to speed here: http://millington.wmctv.com/news/news/68130-whats-behind-restaurants-health-score
In that column, you learned a critical violation is as much as five points. Big chunk. The difference between a restaurant scoring above 90 or landing a rating that raises suspicions.
Or the swing vote between passing an inspection and failing it.