King County’s New Restaurant Grading System

King County’s New Restaurant Grading System

Since 2014, the Seattle & King County Health Department has been looking to implement a new restaurant grading system that will incorporate placards.

Stakeholders, including our government affairs team and restaurant owners and operators, worked closely with the health department about what is wanted out of the new system. The county rolled out the new system on Jan. 17, 2017.

The Seattle Restaurant Alliance members have truly appreciated the opportunities the health department gave us to help build the new restaurant grading system.

We believe our feedback throughout the process was well organized and thoughtfully considered.

We will participate in the testing and monitoring this new system with the health department as it rolls out to give feedback and work to address any concerns or issues.

All food establishments that sell or serve food to the public must get an annual permit and be inspected by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

The majority of establishments have two unannounced inspections per year.

The purpose of the inspections is to assure that the food is being handled properly from preparation through serving. Inspectors observe kitchen workers’ food handling practices, assure equipment is working properly, take food temperatures, inspect refrigerators and storage areas, assure water temperatures and correct level and use of sanitizers. Any problem found is written up, and the manager is taught the correct procedure or method immediately.


New sign

The new system brings new food safety rating categories.

Restaurants will now receive one of four food safety ratings to provide the public with more information about the level of a restaurant’s food safety practices, helping them make informed decisions about eating out. If a restaurant is open for business it meets minimum food safety standards to operate.

The four food safety ratings are:

  • Needs to Improve: The restaurant was either closed by Public Health – Seattle & King County within the last year or the restaurant needed multiple return inspections to fix food safety practices.
  • OK: The restaurant has had MANY red critical violations over the last four inspections.
  • Good: The restaurant has had SOME red critical violations over the last four inspections.
  • Excellent: The restaurant has had None or Few red critical violations over the last four inspections.

According to the health department, a restaurant’s food safety rating will now be displayed on a sign on a restaurant’s window. The ratings and full inspection history will be available starting on Jan. 17, 2017, and also provided as open data.

To learn more, visit the health department’s website.

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