The Lowest Score Doesn’t Always Mean A Loss

Kelby Lamar

Jour 5300 Story 2

Watchdog

Final

You don’t always have to have the highest score to win.

Many Athens restaurants have this attitude when it comes to health inspection scores.

Restaurants can receive low scores for a variety of reasons. Three of the lowest ranked restaurants in downtown Athens, Doc Chey’s Noodle House, Pauley’s Restaurant, and Shane’s Rib Shack all received critical violations within the past six months.  However, low scores are not always what they seem.

Often times, these scores could have been given during a restaurant’s offseason when business was slow.

Most of the time health inspections are random, and restaurants are not aware when they will be conducted.  As a result, the scores that a restaurant receives aren’t always indicative of how healthy a place is.

The Northeast Health District website categorizes violations into two categories, high risk, and low risk.  According to the website, “high risk contains one or more critical violations and low risk contain no critical violations and a score of 90 or above.”

Three of the lowest ranked restaurants of downtown Athens include Doc Chey’s Noodle House, Pauley’s, and Shane’s Rib Shack, which received scores of 70, 83, and 83 respectively.

Several people were surprised to learn of Doc Chey’s violations. The noodle house had three critical violations, including the following: 4-1A, food being separated and protected, 6-1A, proper cold holding temperatures, and 6-1C, proper cooling time and temperature.

Hope Sadler, a senior at the university from Eatonton, Ga. visited Doc Chey’s on Valentine’s Day.  However, Sadler was dismayed to learn of its health score.  “That is really disgusting,” she said while stretching her eyes and nearly choking on her glass of water.  “I wouldn’t eat there again until they get a score of at least 92.”  Sadler was not only disappointed in Doc Chey’s low score, but also in herself, because she had taken culinary classes before.

Sadler felt that the violations should have been obvious to her.  “I didn’t see a health score sign posted,” she said.  “And I got a headache later that night after eating the sesame chicken with carrots, broccoli, and brown rice. I can’t believe I missed the signs.”

While Sadler stopped short of saying her headache was directly caused by the food, it was clear that she thought the two were connected.  “I have eaten plenty of Asian food before, but I have never had a headache like that one,” she said.  “I will not be recommending that any of my friends eat there any time soon until I hear that their score is higher.”

Though Doc Chey’s low score is troubling, it is not alone with critical violations.  Pauley’s restaurant was in violation of code 6-1B, proper hot-holding temperatures.

Pauley’s specializes in French cuisines, especially crepes, and one patron was particularly willing to give his account of the restaurant.

Sean Philips was not impressed with the food selection, but was thrilled with the vast selection of beers.  In the crowded Friday night atmosphere of the restaurant, I made my way over to him, and asked his opinion of the health score and menu.  “The crepes are so-so.  They’re not awful but they’re not good either,” he said.

“What really impressed me was their extensive selection of beers.  Samples are available upon request, and if you somehow try all of their beers, you’ll be forever immortalized in Athens with a picture on the hall of fame.”  Philips was adamant when describing the beers, going so far as to use his arms and hands to distinguish the differences between them.  “I didn’t know anything about the health score,” he said.  “That kind of surprises me, especially with the French food.”

According to urbanspoon.com, a site that surveys the satisfaction level of restaurants in Athens, 79 percent or 119 people out of 150 liked Pauley’s, whereas 77 percent, or 108 out of 140 people liked Doc Chey’s.

The last restaurant surveyed was Shane’s Rib Shack, which was in violation of code

6-1C, which refers to proper cooling time and temperature.

David Aldridge, a patron with several napkins placed on his shirt as a bib, was quite fond of the food.  “It’s a good place to get a BBQ sandwich.  I like that they serve it on Texas Toast and the fries that come along with it are good,” he said.

Aldridge was unaware of the recent health violations, and was surprised to learn of them because of the many times that he had visited before.  “I’ve tried the chicken and ribs and both were fine,” he said.  “I haven’t gotten sick before from eating here, so I guess it isn’t too bad.”

Urbanspoon.com rates customer satisfaction at Shane’s around 60 percent, or 25 out of 41 people.  Of the three restaurants, Shane’s Rib Shack is the most troubling because unlike the other two restaurants, there are other Shane’s establishments in Athens.

This location’s low health score could have an adverse effect on the other Shane’s restaurant because of association.

No archived listings of past health scores could be located to compare with current scores.

However, according to the Northeast Health District’s website, a restaurant will receive a follow-up visit within 10 days of scores less than 70, which constitutes failing.  Though none of the restaurants listed here received failing scores, Doc Chey’s Noodle House did receive a follow up visit, and received a score of 78 in the follow up.  The manager could not be reached for comment.

It is important to note that two of the restaurants mentioned, Doc Chey’s Noodle House and Shane’s Rib Shack received visits from the health inspector two days ago.

There was not enough time to get the managers’ comments on these new health scores.

As of March 8, 2011 Doc Chey’s health score is listed as 96, a significant improvement over its previous score of 78.

Shane’s Rib Shack now has a score of 91, which is also an improvement over its previous score of 83.

Restaurant health scores are important, but it appears as though that importance is relative.

Some customers care a great deal, and yet others don’t seem to care at all.  But as these new health scores indicate, restaurant’s should always be on their guard for the health inspector.

 

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