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Building a Healthy, Booming Restaurant Industry for NYC - Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Building a Healthy, Booming Restaurant Industry for NYC

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New York has more than 24,000 restaurants, bakeries, delis, and other eating establishments, with menus that satisfy any taste and suit every budget. They’re a huge part of our daily lives. Hundreds of thousands of us work in them; they pump $12 billion a year into our economy; and they’re a major attraction for the 50 million-plus tourists who visit New York each year.

It’s essential not only that these businesses store, prepare, and serve food in ways that protect our health, but also that customers have a reliable way of knowing how good a job they’re doing. So in July, 2010, the City Health Department began issuing letter grades to them. Those ‘A’s,’ ‘B’s’ and ‘C’s’ displayed in restaurant windows around town tell us about the food safety and sanitation practices inside. And a new Health Department study shows four major reasons why the letter-grade system is making the grade.

First: Kitchens across the City are cleaner.  More than 72 percent of restaurants citywide were posting A’s in their windows at the end of January – up from 65 percent just 12 months earlier.  

Second: Over the past year, the number of cases of salmonella infection – the best indicator of food-borne illnesses – dropped to a 20-year low in the five boroughs.  That’s great news for everyone who lives or works in our City, or who visits us on business or on vacation.

Third: New Yorkers overwhelmingly like the grading system. A survey conducted by Baruch College found that 91 percent of us approve of the grades, 88 percent of us take grades into account when we decide where to eat, and 76 percent of us feel more confident about cleanliness in restaurants with ‘A’ grades.

And fourth: New York’s restaurant business is booming. When we started issuing letter grades, some worried that they’d drive customers away. But during the first nine months of the program – the period for which we have full figures – restaurant sales actually increased 9.3 percent citywide. That growth is three times greater than it was in the two previous years – evidence that keeping restaurant kitchens cleaner attracts customers, just as making our restaurants and bars smoke-free has, too.

The fact is that we want restaurants to succeed. That’s why, for example, over the past two years our ‘new business acceleration team’ has cut the red tape involved in getting the permits needed to open more than 600 new restaurants all over town. Getting an ‘A’ from the Health Department is also great free advertising – advertising that more and more restaurants are proudly displaying. And now a new iPhone app can help you quickly find ‘A’-graded restaurants, too. 

Business at restaurants is up; illness from food poisoning is down. And New Yorkers support the letter grading system. The proof is in the pudding – and more than ever, the pudding is being prepared according to the highest food safety standards.

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