Restaurant inspection reports in Winnipeg in need of an overhaul

Ok, so, on Saturday, a couple found – yeah, it’s gross, just go read the article if you want. Basically, a previously living mammal was found in a woman’s stir fry from the St. Vital food court.

Now, Winnipeg has this great resource called the Diner’s Digest. It lists all of the closures and convictions of Winnipeg restaurants in the past 12 months… But it doesn’t yet show the closure of The Sizzling Wok on Saturday due to the – um, “incident.”

Now, first of all, the Diner’s Digest looks like it’s only updated a few times a month. So if your favourite eatery got a conviction a few weeks ago, you wouldn’t find out about it until a month or so after the fact. The lag time between closure or conviction and when it appears in the Digest is a worry to me. Transparency in government is great, but only when it appears in time for you to act on the relevant information.

But I’d also like to see the city of Winnipeg move to a more public and visible way for restaurants to show how well they’ve fared in their inspections. Many jurisdictions are starting to move to a grading system for restaurants, and they are required to post their rating at the door or counter. Parts of the UK has moved to a five-star rating system with their Scores on the Doors program, and Northampton has reported a rise in the number of restaurants receiving five-star ratings. The Toronto area has moved to a green/yellow/red card rating system, much like the Los Angeles County A, B or C ratings.

So, rather than waiting a few weeks to post how a restaurant did in their last inspection online, why can’t the inspector just hand the owner or manager a card to hang in their window? Restaurants with great ratings can play it up, customers get instant information on how well a restaurant is doing in their health inspections, and City Hall can make some noise about how they’re making more information available faster to the citizens of Winnipeg.

Or… you know, they could keep their Diner’s Digest a bit more up to date. I’ll take either one at this point.

*Edit: It is now June 3, 2009. The Diner’s Digest has STILL not been updated with the closure of Sizzling Wok. It’s been almost a month now.

If people are supposed to trust the information that the government gives them, the information needs to be kept up to date.


Filed under News

2 Responses to Restaurant inspection reports in Winnipeg in need of an overhaul

  1. I think that it would also be great to have these ratings posted online. I think that more and more people are looking online for new places to eat, reviews, etc. Having the grades posted online would make it possible to incorporate that information into mashups that give diners a more complete picture of possible eateries.

  2. Sarah

    Posting the ratings online would be fabulous, but they already can’t keep their current system updated. I mean, seriously: how hard is it? The inspector closes the restaurant, returns to the office to complete the paperwork… and I guarantee you that it gets sent to some clerk to be updated when they have time, weeks later.

    There should be a front-end application to add a closure or conviction to the report, and have it automatically generate a new PDF on the server. Getting stuff like this automated should be a priority for the city.

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