Sore About the Score

As of Monday, November 20, KTBC Channel 7 has suspended their weekly Restaurant Scorecard feature wherein they broad-cast the five lowest and highest scores on the Austin/Travis County Health Department restaurant sanitation reports. A concerned group of more than 60 local restaurateurs, members of the Austin Restaurant Association, requested a meeting with station representatives to voice their concerns about the aggressively promoted feature. The group, lead by chapter president Copper Tank manager Kelly Jones, met with KTBC station manager Craig Miller, news director Deborah York, and reporter Tony Lopez. Restaurants as diverse as McDonald's, Outback Steakhouse, and Jeffrey's were represented and voiced various complaints. Some were offended by the sensational nature of the television and radio ads that were used to hype the short news segment, such as promos promising to reveal "Austin's Dirtiest Restaurants" which ran during a ratings "sweeps" period. Owners of restaurants in older buildings pointed out that the report scores do not differentiate between points subtracted for cosmetic and structural problems as opposed to true sanitation problems that might be dangerous to the public health. Some restaurateurs were worried that a perfectly clean venue would be confused with a low scoring eatery because of similar names, i.e. low scores for McClesky's Hamburgers caused some consternation and embarrassing phone calls at Dan McCluskey's. Even restaurants with scores in the 90s did not particularly care to be mentioned in the segment, for fear that the public would be confused about exactly which businesses had the high scores and which the low. An overall concern was that the sanitation report procedure is a complicated and subjective process with a potential for misinterpretation and sensationalism that could prove damaging to local restaurant revenues. For now, the scorecard segment is being suspended while the station considers the restaurants' concerns and consults with the Health Department to develop a more thorough understanding of the scoring procedures. News Director York says Scorecard may return in a few weeks.

Events & Appearances

Kicking off the holiday season in grand style, Sfuzzi offers a festive wine dinner featuring an elegant menu with sparkling wines from Domain Chandon and Moet et Chandon, Monday, December 4, 7pm. Call 476-8100 to make reservations. $55 per person... Austin children's book author, turned cookbook maven, Angela Shelf Medearis kicks off the tour to promote her cookbook
A Kwanzaa Celebration (Dutton, $17.95, hard) at Mitchie's Fine Black Art, Saturday, December 9, 3-5pm. Medearis will sign books, demonstrate recipes, and offer suggestions and information about organizing a Kwanzaa celebration... One of the country's foremost authorities on southern history and culture, Knopf author John Egerton, will present a supper talk entitled Southern Foodways on Sunday, December 10, 5-7 pm at Threadgill's Country Store Museum, 6416 N. Lamar. Egerton, author of Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History, is often referred to as "the poet laureate of southern cooking." so what better place for him to speak than the local Mother Church of southern cooking, Threadgill's? Egerton's presentation is sponsored by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, UT Austin, and Threadgill's. Admission is free but reservations are necessary. Call 471-8944.

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