Are NYC health inspectors inflating restaurant grades?

So asks Nell Casey of The Gothamist.

New York’s restaurant inspection system has been criticized for being unfairly punitive since its controversial inception under the Bloomberg administration. Even though fines have been dramatically reduced and system altered to be more equitable, restaurant owners are still struggling with poor grades, which can severely impact their business.

That’s why it’s surprising to learn that city health inspectors seem to rather give a restaurant an “A” grade if the score hovers close to the 13 points or less needed to obtain that letter. On his data-heavy blog, Pratt City & Regional Planning faculty member Ben Wellington studies grading data since the program’s beginnings in 2010 and finds that three times as many restaurants received a score of 13 than a score of 14, which would have earned them a “B” grade. Wellington surmises that inspectors must be using “discretion” when issuing their final tally of violations.

Much like a teacher might boost a student’s final grade when taking other factors (attendance, participation, effort, etc.) into consideration, Wellington believes inspectors are “turning a blind eye towards that last violation that would put a restaurant over the edge.”