John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Food-grade ratings will soon be available online

A dining website is about to add food hygiene gradings

The Library Cafe Onehunga. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Library Cafe Onehunga. Photo / Doug Sherring

The worst-rated restaurants will soon have more trouble hiding a poor grading from diners.

Authorities give grades from a squeaky-clean A to a lowly E. Previously, diners relied on seeing the hygiene certificates at the eatery, reading occasional media reports about the worst of them, or searching council records online.

Now, dining review site Zomato plans to list food-grade data for about 2,500 premises. "In Auckland we realised that a lot of users actually want to know about the food grade of a restaurant before they go there," Zomato country manager Sahil Ludhani said.

He said the attention would encourage eateries to be more up-front about hygiene and improve.

A spokeswoman for Auckland Council told the Herald on Sunday she welcomed the data being widely available but Zomato would have to update ratings, which can change quickly.

"If we receive a complaint the grading may drop."

Likewise, any restaurant that fixed problems would promptly improve ratings. "We do act really quickly. We don't want to put people out of business."

Vermin, poor hygiene and structural problems can cause bad ratings. Ratings are meant to be visible on the council website — but that site's search engine was hard to navigate when the Herald on Sunday tried it this week.

Ludhani said Zomato staff visit eateries to get menus and other information. "Everything is done with the overall goal of making that decision to go to a restaurant easier."

Zomato had sites for Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and hoped to expand to Christchurch soon. Ludhani said Zomato earned its revenue from "hyper-local" advertising geared to niche markets. The firm employed 12 people in Auckland and hoped to have 25 full-time employees by year's end.

Zomato said about 89.8 per cent of Auckland eateries had an A rating. Nine per cent were rated B, none had a C, less than one in 100 had a D rating, and just seven out of 2403 were rated E.


Eatery E rating irksome, but does expire

Library Cafe general manger David Richardson admits he'd rather not have an E grade, but structural problems in the beautiful 102-year-old building are to blame.

Rain leaked through the ceiling of the historic Onehunga structure, he said.

Zomato said the E grading would expire on August 31 but the cafe could improve its rating before then.

Richardson said there was no point applying for an upgrade before fixing the roof — and that had to be done in consultation with the Auckland Council.

Diners at the cafe didn't seem perturbed at the E rating. "People do ask about it and we're honest with them," Richardson said.

He hadn't heard of Zomato but as a diner he'd find the site "handy" when choosing a restaurant. Current staff took over barely 80 days ago, but were taking charge of the inherited problem. He said local authorities even had to approve the colour of the exterior.

Zomato said any upgraded eatery should contact Zomato with proof, and data would be updated.

Zomato lists seven E grades:

• Hengkee Foods & Takeaway, Auckland Central
• Jintai Yang Limited, Auckland Central
• Sichuan Cuisine Chinese Restaurant, Auckland Central
• iFun KTV, Freemans Bay
• Flourishing Cafe, Avondale
• North China Restaurant, Mt Albert
• Library Cafe Onehunga, Onehunga

- Herald on Sunday

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