Why Do NYC Restaurants Have A Letter Grade System?

letter grades restaurant letter grade system

Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting


The Letter Grade System was enacted to decrease foodborne illness, promote sanitary practices and create transparency for diners.

While the Letter Grade System has achieved those goals since its inception, fines for violations have created additional financial burdens for many NYC restaurant operators already battling an extremely competitive environment. Preventing violations is key…

Know the Rules

  • Violation points incurred during an inspection, will determine your inspection cycle. Restaurants that receive 13 points or less will be visited again in 9-12 months. Restaurants that score over 14 points will be visited in 6-8 months, over 28 points 3-5 months. Preventing violations will decrease the amount of times the City will inspect. Less inspections, means less fines.
  • Have more than one FPC holder. We recommend as many as possible. Having only one that’s on break when the health inspector shows up is a guaranteed fine, and 10 violation points

Proper refrigeration will reduce waste, keep food safe and decrease costs

  • Make sure refrigeration units are serviced properly and regularly. A broken unit creates unsafe food, a broken unit with an insufficient alternate, that goes unnoticed until a city inspection can lead to closure and lots of fines.
  • Putting food out in small batches will help keep food at the right temperature and prevent spoilage. Only put out what will be used.
  • Do not double stack or over stock refrigerators. When food is crammed, the refrigerator will have to work harder to maintain proper temperature. An overfilled refrigerator will prevent cold air from circulating properly developing hot spots, leading to food spoilage.
  • Using slotted shelves inside refrigeration units, allows for better cooling and will not require extra energy to keep the entire unit cold.
  • Keep the lowboy and reach in refrigerators at least 6-8 inches from the wall so the motor compartment does not over heat and blow out causing the unit to malfunction.

Remain proactive.  Establish practices to reduce the risk of potential violations

  • Operating at the highest level of food safety will ensure compliance with the system and decrease costs.
  • Conducting monthly mock inspections, will allow you to detect problems before they develop into violations.
  • Educate staff, prepare them and hold them accountable.

Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing Attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com

Rada Tarnovsky
Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com