Why NYC Restaurant Grades are Useless (but the inspection scores aren't)

I consider myself fortunate that I have only suffered from food poisoning twice in the portion of my life that I remember. It’s really amazing: figure I’ve eaten an average of 4 times per day since I 8, which is about as far back as I have memories of being sick- that’s well over 30,000 meals & snacks. Given the huge variety (and quantity) of food I eat, and the places it comes from, I’m actually astounded at how well I’ve fared.

Both times that I’ve gotten sick it has been after eating at NYC restaurants. Out of the many hundreds of meals that have been prepared in commercial kitchens in the city, I’m not complaining. But you don’t forget something like that.

When NYC started assigning public grades to restaurants 18 months ago, I thought that it would ensure that these things would happen less and less frequently. But both of the places I got sick at ended up getting the highest grades. And I thought, how could this be? Small sample side notwithstanding, it seemed like something was amiss.

So last month I finally started to look at how the restaurant scores are calculated. Using Tableau Public, I put together a little resource for people to see how restaurant inspection scores have changed over time. You can see it here.