Restaurant inspections as a motivational tool


For a restaurant owner, periodic health inspections are probably viewed as a nuisance. Pass the inspection, avoid any sanctions from the city health department, and move on to the next task. Accordingly, restaurants are motivated to do just enough to pass, with little incentive to go beyond the minimum requirements.

Obviously, this is a poor incentive structure. Cities need to flip the situation around. Instead of just penalizing those who fail the inspection, they should also reward those who do exceptionally well. For instance, if restaurants are scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 6 being a passing grade, then those who score 9 or above should receive special recognition. They might get a prominent sign to place on the window, free sponsorship of city events, or a listing in a quarterly or annual dining guide.

By rewarding the cleanest and safest restaurants with valuable marketing resources, cities help those model establishments bring in more business, while protecting and improving the well being of residents.