Skillsoft Blog

Food Safety Drives Consumer Choices

By Joel Townsend,
Solution Consulting Group Team Lead, Compliance, Skillsoft

Legend says that Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, was
asked by a journalist: “Why do you rob banks?”
Willie supposedly replied, “That’s where the money is.” Sometimes the
first and most obvious answer isn’t very insightful, although it can make for a
good laugh.

When we think of food and alcohol safety, the “Willie Sutton”
response is always “it’s required.” Several years ago I stopped by a little
sandwich shop for lunch.  In my city,
restaurants are required to post health scores by the cash register. On this
particular day, I looked up to see a 100% rating.  I think I had only seen one perfect score
previously in my life.  I complimented
the woman behind the counter.  She
responded with: “We get perfect scores all the time. It’s no big deal. The last
place I worked got 100% on nearly every inspection.”  I returned to my car amazed— this employee had
no idea it wasn’t just the product— she
was creating exceptional value wherever she worked.

If we think about the restaurant value proposition from the
consumer’s viewpoint, there’s a lot to consider.  Consumers choose restaurants for a host of
reasons: convenience, location, cuisine, ambiance and increasingly, health
ratings.  A growing number of local media
outlets feature food safety scores of area restaurants.  With so many consumer choices in food
establishments today, one means of making a restaurant selection is health

In fact, New York City instituted a revised letter-grade
system for rating restaurant health a couple of years ago.  The purpose of
the change was to make it easier for consumers to make a quick evaluation of
the relative food safety compliance of each establishment.  Sometimes regulatory changes are met by the
public with a collective yawn.  In this
case however, restaurant patrons took notice and changed their buying behavior
based on the new information.  According
to a recent Quinnipiac University poll
, New Yorkers overwhelmingly approve
of the new plan and two-thirds of them now consider health ratings when
selecting a restaurant. On second thought maybe Willie’s quip, “That’s where
the money is” might be a good response to food safety after all.

Joel Townsend is the
team lead for the Compliance Solutions Consulting group at Skillsoft. He
has a wide variety of compliance life experience, including owning and operating
a food processing facility.

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