Post-Sandy Restaurant Recovery Resources from NYC Hospitality Alliance

Post-Sandy scene from lower Manhattan, courtesy of Acqua at Peck Slip.

As New York City restaurants deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, they may find themselves overwhelmed by the many steps they need to take to get and keep their doors open. Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, and his team have put together a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute recovery resource guide for restaurateurs.

Rigie, who has been organizing outreach efforts on behalf of the Alliance, says, “Different hospitality businesses have been impacted to different degrees. Business owners are asking what are the resources out there, how can I get back open, what can I do about my insurance claims, and what kinds of loans are available.” This guide lists resources for each of those concerns. The Alliance’s efforts extend beyond the guide, naturally. Because of limited power and cell service in Manhattan, he and his team are using social media to reach restaurateurs in need, as well as pounding the pavement and disseminating information. They are also working to coordinate the efforts of restaurateurs interested in helping to feed the hungry.

Where should a restaurateur begin recovery? “First, safety should be the number one concern,” Rigie cautions restaurant operators. “If you’re concerned about your safety or that of your employees, get in touch with the City for assistance. If you’re not sure how to do that, get in touch with us.” Attention should then turn to food safety precautions and reaching out to insurance brokers, making sure to carefully document damage and file claims correctly.

Even restaurants that have been fully operational for several days are meeting challenges, regarding phone and Internet access, and, also, staffing. “Employees want to work, but it’s been getting difficult for many of them to get to the restaurants,” Rigie notes. “Some businesses are using delivery trucks to pick up employees or are offering to reimburse workers for transportation costs,” until transportation systems are fully restored.

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Restaurant Letter Grades: Why the ABCs Are Bad for Business in the Five Boroughs

B is the new A, as in scarlet letter, thanks to the newish New York City health department letter grades.

The New York City health department’s letter-grade system for restaurants is old news, but not really. Instituted a year ago, the consequences of letter grades are being felt by restaurateurs at every level, from high-end fine dining to casual eateries. I’ve worked in many restaurants and earned a HACCP certification during my stint at culinary school, so I have a good understanding of how easy it is for a clean restaurant to receive an undesirable grade. Clearly, though, not every diner does — and it’s bad for business.

I recently spoke with Andrew Rigie, Executive Vice President of the New York City chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, in the hopes that he could shed some light on the situation.

Andrew, why has something that seems so simple turned out to be such a nightmare to navigate, for both diners and restaurateurs?

The biggest issue is that the letter grade system seems straightforward, yet it is based on a complex health code and the letter grade system is intellectually incoherent.

How so?

People feel that they understand what the letter grades really are. But, when I went to school, 90-100 percent on a test was an A, 80-90 percent was a B, and so on. What diners need to understand is that there are more than 1,000 points that a restaurant can accrue during an inspection, and it only takes 14 points to get a B and 28 points to get a C. If you use educational scoring here, 28 points is actually more than a 96%, which was an A+ when I went to school.

In reality, then, a C really *isn’t* the bad or dangerous grade some diners perceive it to be?

It’s important to recognize that a C-graded restaurant is deemed safe and sanitary enough to serve the public. If the restaurant was not safe to serve the public, the health department would shut it down.

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