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Detroit Is Piloting a Voluntary Restaurant Rating System

Officials are looking for restaurants to participate in the pilot program

Food inspector with gloves using a thermometer to measure temperature of food. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

Just weeks short of a year after the Detroit City Council struck down a proposed ordinance that would require restaurants to display a color-coded placard whether they adhered to city health codes, a new voluntary pilot is launching in October and will run through March 2024.

Aimed to provide a preview of what a health code rating system could look like in Detroit, the Dining with Confidence initiative is inviting restaurants to sign up for routine health inspections of their establishments. In exchange, the establishment is given a green-colored placard with a QR code displaying that they are in compliance that can be placed around the entrance of the business.

“We need for the public to be able to quickly see whether the restaurant they are visiting is compliant, and operators need to be applauded for caring about the health and safety of visitors and residents of the city,” read a written statement issued earlier this month by chef Phil Jones, a local food advocate, who was hired in March 2023 by Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson to engage with food-centered business owners regarding their concerns and needs for operating in the city.

Benson, who represents the city’s third district, has been working toward implementing a rating system for restaurant for some time. The council member brought on Jones to serve as a community food specialist to help his office gather feedback from the food-based businesses in Detroit, which could be used to inform future policy. Jones tells Eater that he believes there are at least 1,300 to 1,800 operators within city limits, an estimate that includes restaurants and food trucks.

The proposed ordinance, struck down by City Council in November 2022, would have required restaurants to display a color-coded sign, indicating whether a food business is up to code, needs improvement, or has been ordered closed for more serious violations. In the months before council members were to vote on the ordinance, the policy had come under fire by members of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (formed in 2021). The group, comprised of Black business owners from a spectrum of industries, urged council members to consider the ways that restaurants had been impacted by the economic devastation brought on by the pandemic, arguing that such policy amounted to a “scarlet letter” on entrepreneurs of color already struggling to remain afloat. Eater has reached out to the organization for comment on the pilot project and will provide an update as it becomes available.