What Does a Restaurant B Letter Grade Mean?

In my last blog post, I highlighted the logic behind the A+ grade. Not all restaurants can consistency achieve that level of excellence. But most B graded restaurants are still very good.

Many of my favorite restaurants have a food safety B grade. Most of us have our favorite local community restaurants. Familiarity offers comfort. Familiarity also invites us to look past some food safety standard violations.


Unfortunately, just a few food safety violations can lead to a B grade but it doesn’t mean there is an increased risk of food borne illness.

The FDA Food Code identifies 56 different inspection items. Some states have not adopted the Code and have far more than 56 inspection points, some considerably less. Slightly over half of the Food Code items are judged to be critical violations that increase the risk of food borne illness, hence are weighted heavier in grading. But multiple non-critical violations can also drive a grade down but may not lead to food borne illness.

From my perspective as a food safety consultant, the consistent scoring history and an occasional outlier are both important in assessing the food safety image of a restaurant. Let me offer two examples:

  • The restaurant continually scores a B grade. The implication is that they are doing a very good job but don’t want to put the extra effort into striving for an A. It takes work to reach that level of compliance and some managers may not feel it is necessary or doable.
  • Another restaurant usually scores very good to excellent on its inspections and then there is the serious outlier that brings down the grade. Here the reason may simply be there was a new employee that was poorly trained or supervised or the inspection was on a very busy shift or the inspector was particularly difficult.

Consistency and outliers tell the real story behind a B grade.

For the restaurant that really wants to shine in food safety excellence, remember It is an “open book” test. The Food Code is available to all. Management can create a checklist and every day or multiple times a day, someone could be responsible for selected items on the list. If food safety becomes part of the work day, it becomes the standard. And the standard drives excellence.

Opportunity for improvement can be simple. The B grade means the restaurant is likely doing 80% of everything right. Pushing that extra 20% is rewarded with an A grade.

DiningGrades.com can identify which violations are trending nationally or regionally. For Chain Restaurants, we can tell management where problems exist and what the problems are. Contact us to learn more at Office@DiningGrades.com.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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