Restaurants to wear their ratings on their sleeves

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 6th April 2010

New schemes in New South Wales and Queensland will encourage restaurants to display their food safety and hygiene ratings on the front door.

The scheme will both allow prospective customers to make an informed decision about their dining choices, and encourage restaurants to keep standards up.

The NSW system will use a school-style ranking of A, B C or P (for ‘pending’), where A means an establishment has met all benchmarks for kitchen hygiene, food handling and preparation, refrigeration and equipment.  The system will be trialled in twelve council areas from July 1 this year.

The Queensland system will use a two- to five-star ‘plates’ system, with five plates for the highest compliance and two for the lowest.  One-plate restaurants will have to improve their game or face closure. Queensland food businesses will commence the scheme in November this year.

The two schemes are a first for Australia, but similar schemes in London, Singapore and Los Angeles have reported success, with ‘A’ rated restaurants in LA going from 39% in 1998 to 83% in 2008.

While the schemes are voluntary, Restaurant and Catering Australia (RCA) said it won’t be easy to avoid joining once it goes statewide.

”While it will be possible to ignore it, it will be hard to avoid because restaurants not displaying a rating will be under suspicion that they are doing the wrong thing,” said chief executive John Hart.

Restauranteurs were positive about the schemes’ introduction. Glen Bongioletti, of the Pig’n’Whistle in Brisbane, told the Brisbane Times that the new standards would lift the bar for everyone.

“There’s no doubt this is a good thing and I’d expect everyone will be publicly displaying their rating, unless they get a bad score,” he said.

“What it will do will get those venues that aren’t up to standard to re-think their practices and improve their hygiene.”