VIDEO: West Seattle Fish House in spotlight for King County’s new restaurant ratings

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Big crowd at West Seattle Fish House (35th SW/SW Henderson) just before lunchtime today – but they weren’t there for the fish, chips, and chowder. It was a big media event to show off the new restaurant-rating system and signage that Seattle-King County Public Health is rolling out, starting now. Above are King County Council Chair Joe McDermott and County Executive Dow Constantine – both West Seattleites – with WSFH proprietors Senait Beyene, Muzit Evans, and Stan Evans. Here’s a closer look at the new emoji-inspired signage:

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As explained in the official announcement of the new system, the first in the nation that takes an average of inspections:

The four food safety ratings are:

Needs to Improve: The restaurant was either closed by Public Health – Seattle & King County within the last year or the restaurant needed multiple return inspections to fix food safety practices.

Okay: The restaurant has had MANY red critical violations over the last four inspections.

Good: The restaurant has had SOME red critical violations over the last four inspections.

Excellent: The restaurant has had No or Few red critical violations over the last four inspections.

The window signage will eventually be displayed in all restaurants in King County. Here’s more about what they mean:

Executive Constantine pointed out that he spent a lot of time working in the food and beverage business – starting out by making fish and chips “down at Alki Beach.” Also at today’s event, inspector Ann Jackson demonstrated some of what she and other inspectors do:

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Though West Seattle was chosen for today’s announcement, you won’t see the rating signs in restaurants here until April, the second phase of this year’s four-phase countywide rollout – that’s when they’ll be posted in zip codes including 98106, 98116, 98126, 98136, and 98146. Meantime – you can look up restaurants’ inspection results here.

24 Replies to "VIDEO: West Seattle Fish House in spotlight for King County's new restaurant ratings"

  • WSDM January 17, 2017 (3:17 pm)

    Why announce this regulation in West Seattle when it’s not even rolled out? As a licensed restaurateur, I have seen zero information from KCPH regarding this regulation (other than media reports). So for the next four months, I and my staff have to explain why our “grade” is not displayed in our window. Thanks a lot, Dow and Joe – you both have earned a “Needs To Improve” emoticon, please display your grade on your office window. 

  • Scott A January 17, 2017 (3:17 pm)

    I’m going to need some help understanding how rating on a curve makes any sense.  I read the linked explanation from the health department but it still doesn’t make sense that where a restaurant is located in the county may determine whether they get an “OK”, “good” or “excellent”.

    • chemist January 17, 2017 (4:50 pm)

      Scott A, there might have been some pushback about certain inspectors in one region being more rigorous than others or the idea that “our restaurant is just a small town place that doesn’t ever serve enough people to need to do that” and it’s easier to just put it as a “curve” rather than a uniform numeric score. The reality is probably that kc inspections leadership hope to not have any significant variations and would probably be concerned if one area gets curved differently from another.

      • WSB January 17, 2017 (10:08 pm)

        I just went back and re-read all the paperwork handed out at this and I don’t see anything about a geographic curve for ratings. They’re rolling it out in four geographic phases as opposed to rolling it out countywide all at once, but otherwise, the average is that of each establishment’s own past four inspections.

        • Scott A January 18, 2017 (4:09 pm)

          Here’s the paragraph from the link above I interpret to mean that violations of a certain type in one inspection area might earn an establishment a poor rating but in another area might be just fine:

          Rating on a curve. Consumers tend to dine locally by their zip code or area. Rating on a curve provides accurate and useful information to consumers about how well a restaurant performs on food safety compared to restaurants nearby. Also, Restaurants within an area tend to have the same food inspector. Our inspectors go through extensive training and all focus on food safety. Even with the training, they may still have slightly different inspection styles. Rating on a curve helps compensate for differences in inspection rating style.”

    • cjboffoli January 18, 2017 (8:28 am)

      ScottA:  Ha-ha.  This is the West Coast.  Home of the famous “California B.”  Do you really think anyone would be held responsible to the letter of the law when there is a chance for vagueness, wiggle room and excuses?  I mean, there’s only human health at stake here.

  • Richard January 17, 2017 (4:01 pm)

    So basically, every restaurant gets a green smiley face.

    That will be so helpful.

  • WCK1968 January 17, 2017 (4:10 pm)

    Ugly, Ugly and more Ugly. Shouldn’t the city council be focusing on more pressing issues, like 4000 houseless people on the streets of Seattle every eventing? A waste of time and money. 

    • Chuck January 17, 2017 (4:51 pm)

      Please, stop it with your common sense. This is the Seattle Council we’re talking about. More pressing issues than bike shares and smiley faces? I think not!

      • WSB January 17, 2017 (4:56 pm)

        This is a COUNTY program, not a city program. While it’s called the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, it’s primarily county, and that’s why Constantine & McDermott were there, not, say, Murray & Herbold. The overseeing board has county and city reps as well as suburban cities around the county and department staffers. Full list is linked from this page: http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/board-of-health.aspx

        • Krista C. January 17, 2017 (5:11 pm)

          Thank you WSB for dropping some knowledge on these commentators. They just want to bag on the Seattle Council even if it has absolutely nothing to do with them. 

  • CeeBee January 17, 2017 (4:33 pm)

    Are you kidding me?  Multiple red violations is an Okay?   What a crazy scale.

    • chemist January 17, 2017 (5:06 pm)

      The goal of an inspection visit and even a red mark is to identify issues, educate, and verify corrective actions have been made. Red issues can be just one worker not following what they’ve been trained on and 4 of the 5 workers who work that station do it correctly. You don’t want a system that’s displayed prominently to be overly punitive. That makes averaging the past several visits and not setting a hard score threshold understandable.

      If you’re squeamish about a few red violations, don’t look up some of the favorite restaurants at that link…. Buddha Ruksa has several reds.

  • Jeannie January 17, 2017 (5:14 pm)

    Really a poorly designed system. I’m all for food safety ratings, but these emojis are idiotic. Are we that illiterate that  we can’t understand a letter rating? And, yes, as other commenters have pointed out, a restaurant with multiple violations still gets a wee smile? What is this – kindergarten where everyone gets a medal?

    • wetone January 17, 2017 (6:04 pm)

      ^^^^^^^ I agree  100% ^^^^^^^^^   

      • dsa January 17, 2017 (7:08 pm)

        This just seems to me to be going about informing the public in a misleading way.  It is either safe or not to eat in these places or not.  If it isn’t close them.  But don’t use these scare tactics on hard working owners.  If they want to inform the public, just post the inspection record.

        • Erithan January 17, 2017 (7:42 pm)

          Off topic a little, but this makes me think of the Scrubs episode where they had emoticons for the pain scale.

  • CanDo January 17, 2017 (6:05 pm)

    Regardless of the system, I just have to say that the West Seattle Fish House is terrific…  with great owners/servers.

    • dsa January 17, 2017 (7:02 pm)

      I love that place. 

    • Chris M January 18, 2017 (8:01 am)

      Agreed – a neighborhood favorite, and incredibly friendly folks — and look at the health inspection reports for them at the link/county site! Probably the lowest scores of any restaurant I’ve gone to recently.

    • JeffK January 18, 2017 (7:20 pm)

      I agree.  And great restaurant to introduce this in.   Quite possibly the cleanest restaurant in WS.

  • seaopgal January 17, 2017 (7:06 pm)

    Yes, I’m also very glad to see this great little restaurant get some attention! 

  • ImmaMom January 18, 2017 (7:39 am)

    I’m excited we finally have SOMETHING that tells us about restaurants food practices without having to slog through PHSKC website.   I’ve gotten food poisoning from restaurants before and I think this’ll put the heat on the worst offenders to clean up their act.   I’m betting the vast majority will pass on restaurants with ratings anything other than “excellent”.  I will. 

  • Karahn January 18, 2017 (3:44 pm)

    West Seattle Seafood is an exceptional place to eat!  Always professional  warm and inviting.  Excellent ratings and a great menu, a must go to for sure!

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