Milwaukee Health Department to Start Grading Restaurants

Jan 25, 2018

There are more than two decades worth of local restaurant inspection reports on the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department website. So if you want to know how your favorite eatery stacks up, you can look them up, see how they’ve done with health inspections in the past, and see the kinds of violations, if any, they’ve received. But the reports can be confusing and are full of jargon that’s generally unfamiliar to those of us who aren’t health inspectors.

A similar sanitation grade posted in a New York City establishment.
Credit Mike Licht / Flickr

The Health Department wanted to change that and as of this year, those inspection reports will be translated into grades. So just like in school, an A will represent few or no violations, with B’s and C’s meaning more or many violations.

"Every year, we do a food safety report and we analyze the percent of routine inspections that had a priority or critical violation and those numbers have been creeping up," says Claire Evers, the director of consumer environmental health for the City of Milwaukee's Health Department.

She continues, "We haven’t had a decrease in foodborne illness in the City of Milwaukee as far back as we can see. And so we really needed to come up with an innovative system to make dining in the City of Milwaukee safer."

Soon these grades will be on display in restaurants throughout Milwaukee, thanks to the new system developed by UWM students and implemented by the Health Department. 

"We haven't had a decrease in foodborne illness in the City of Milwaukee as far back as we can see. And so we really needed to come up with an innovative system to make dining in the City of Milwaukee safer."

Andrew Lochowicz is one of those students from UWM’s Executive MBA program, and was the project manager for the team of students who came up with the system. The group analyzed different grading systems instituted by other cities and created an algorithm that uses several recent health inspection reports to create a restaurant's letter grade. 

But the grade won't just be based off previous health inspections. It will also take into account a group's ability to rectify past violations. 

"When you have a violation - you have points deducted - you'll have an opportunity to earn a certain amount of points back based on the timeliness and thoroughness of which you resolve that finding," says Lochowicz.