(WTVM) - COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - If you have plans to go out for dinner at your favorite restaurant this weekend, listen up.
Do you know what grade that restaurant has? That score can tell you whether a restaurant is following proper procedures to minimize the risk of you becoming ill.
News Leader 9's Cheryl Renee goes behind the scenes and talks with a health inspector to find out what you need to know when dining out.
There are plenty of restaurants in Columbus from downtown on Broadway all the way to the dining Mecca known as Columbus Park Crossing and every place in between. But have you ever stopped to think, what's the score of that restaurant?
"Honestly, it's not something that I consciously think of when I walk into a restaurant," says Timothy Helton.
"I really haven't looked into it," admits John Johnson.
Most of us have no idea what goes on in the kitchen of our favorite restaurant, and that's where the inspection report comes in handy. Just like in school, restaurants are given a grade, which can tell a lot.
In Georgia 90 to 100 is an A, 80 to 89 is a B, a score of 70 to 79 is a C, and under 70 is a U which means Unsatisfactory. This little score could tell you what is going on behind the kitchen's closed doors.
Ashley Basset is a health inspector with the Columbus Department of Public Health. Her job is to inspect businesses serving food to ensure they are following safe food handling procedures.
"We look at personal hygiene, cooking, temperatures, cold holding, hot holding, cooling temps, this is just an example of some of the things we look for," Basset says.
An inspection report is broken down into two sections: the top portion, which weighs more heavily, covers about 10 things from employee hygiene to food storage and proper handling of food. The bottom nine items deals with food temperature and proper use of utensils to water, plumbing, and waste and pest control. Each violation gets a certain number of points.
At the end of the inspection, Basset totals the points, and this number is the restaurant's inspection score.
"You as a consumer need to pay attention to the inspection form," Basset says.
"If it's under 90, I generally don't go just because I know the restaurant conditions probably would be pretty bad," says Dawn Brock.
Jamie Keating, owner of Epic Restaurant in Columbus, tells his staff that they will not take shortcuts. Keating says he has systems in place to make sure they're following state guidelines to the point where he conducts his own inspections to maintain his A score.
"We'll do out of nowhere inspections where some of my chefs will come in and inspect one of my two kitchens between Rivermill and here at Epic; that just keeps everybody on their toes," Keating says.
An inspection is a snapshot of what's happening during the time of the unannounced visit- usually twice a year. On any given day, a restaurant could have more or fewer violations than noted in an inspection. Also, violations can be corrected prior to the inspector leaving the restaurant. If violations are not corrected, a follow-up inspection is scheduled.
Basset says the inspection report isn't meant to scare, just inform, and it doesn't keep her from eating out.
"We have a lot of great restaurants in Columbus," Basset says, and she wants to make sure it stays that way.
According to the health department, an inspection report should be posted within 15 feet of the main entrance. There is an official website folks going to dine out in Columbus can use to check the ratings of your favorite eateries.
lists all of the restaurants scores.
Click on the link above to check out your favorite restaurant's score.