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February 9, 2017 Staff

Will your favorite food cart soon be receiving a letter grade?

inspection grade

Inspection grades for restaurants in New York.

If you live in states like California or New York, you’re familiar with seeing a letter grade posted clearly outside of a restaurant. These letter grades are intended to give consumers confidence that they are eating at an establishment that maintains a clean and healthy kitchen. But are these ratings good for mobile food units as well?

Within the state of California there are three letter grades that can be assigned to a restaurant by a health inspector two times per year:

Rating A – This means the restaurant is safe to eat at, is clean, and otherwise you should not be worried about getting sick from the food or catching a case of the E. Coli. virus. There are typically processes in place at each restaurant to ensure that meat and milk is stored at the correct temperatures. Dates are also placed on perishable food items to ensure that food is not spoiled. Most of the restaurants that you frequent will fall into this category.

Rating B – There are very few operating restaurants with a B rating. Since the vast majority of all restaurant receive the A rating, it is rare to see a letter B posted in the window of a restaurant.

Rating C – If you come across a restaurant with a rating of C it may be wise to choose an alternative spot to eat. Restaurants that fall into this category are rare, but to receive this rating you’ve got to be doing something seriously wrong. Not regularly cleaning your cooking area, dropping food on the ground, not picking it up, a cockroach infestation. Diner beware!

Of course, within the state of California you can also have your restaurants license suspended if you have received an A if at any time an inspector visits the establishment and deems the food unsafe. During a 21-month period, 1,069 of these suspenses were handed out within the state of California. Additionally, health inspectors may visit a restaurant at any moment, especially if complaints are received from patrons.

Letter Ratings Coming For Food Carts Too?

According to this article on by @AlisonFox, similar ratings could be coming to food carts and trucks in New York as well. Fortunately, street vendors interviewed within this article say this change would be a positive one. The ratings would help consumers understand what carts are safe to eat at and also become a competitive advantage. For example, if two hot dog carts are posted within a block of each other, one has an A rating and the second a B, all things being equal you’ll probably eat at the one with the better health grade.

Bottom Line: If this change starts to be rolled out to more states, it probably won’t be a big deal for food truck vendors. Food truck owners must already pass health inspections that are comparable to restaurants so it’s unlikely that much will change here assigned from getting a letter grade.

Additionally, in recent years many restaurants have started to expand and purchase food trucks to promote their food at live events, conduct catering more easily, and generate more revenue. As a result, these mobile vendors will be familiar with the process.

Do you think this change would be a positive or negative change for food carts across America? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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