Health Department Letter Grades
In 2015, in San Antonio, San Angelo, Houston and Harris County local elected officials and health/sustainability committees proposed posting of letter grades in restaurants to reflect health inspection scores. The letter grade proposals would have required food establishments to prominently display a letter grade (A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc.) which corresponded to the most recent health inspection report. TRA and the local chapters met with local officials to express the industry's concerns. We successfully defeated the proposals in San Angelo, Houston and Harris County. In San Antonio, we were successful in defeating the mandated letter grade placard requirement, but the San Antonio Health Department instituted a voluntary letter grade/placard system. The San Antonio Restaurant Association (SARA) and TRA still oppose the voluntary placard system will continue to monitor its implementation and effect on our industry. If your local health department proposes letter grades, please contact TRA.
Austin's Organics Diversion Program
In 2010 a City of Austin ordinance requiring restaurants to recycle and compost was expected to pass. As you can imagine, this issue has not been without controversy. TRA and the Austin chapter got involved and were successful in getting the ordinance slowed down and phased in after a successful lobbying effort showing the City Council the harmful economic effect of the ordinance and detailing the lack of enough organic haulers in the city.
The city agreed to launch a pilot program instead which several TRA members participated in. The pilot program revealed that there was not sufficient infrastructure in place to successfully execute an organics diversion program for restaurants – so implementation was pushed back to 2016.
- Beginning Oct. 1, 2016 the very largest restaurants (>15,000 square feet) will be required to establish an organics diversion program.
- By Oct. 2017, restaurants greater than 5,000 square feet are subject to the requirement, and by Oct. 1, 2018 all restaurants will need to establish an organics diversion program.
When calculating square footage – be sure to include any outdoor dining areas
Why are we talking about this now when only the largest restaurants are subject to the requirement this year? Because establishing an organics diversion program takes time and effort. The problems and issues that the largest restaurants will face this year will be the same issues that all restaurants will face in the coming years.
What is an organics diversion program? Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance requires food permitted facilities to establish programs to divert organic material (e.g. wasted food, yard trimmings) from landfills, also known as Organics Diversion. The intent of the ordinance is to significantly reduce the amount of organic material sent to the landfill.
Minimum requirements include:
- Submit an online Organics Diversion Plan (due by Feb. 1 each year)
- Reduce or divert organic material generated onsite, on a weekly basis
- Post informational signs in both English and Spanish, or an additional language
- Educate employees about the organics diversion program annually and within 30 days of hire
- Place exterior organics collection receptacles within 25-feet of landfill trash containers
The city will enforce the organics diversion ordinance through the inspection process. The City of Austin is offering rebates to qualifying businesses to offset the costs of recycling and organics diversion. To see if you qualify, please contact the City of Austin Organics Diversion program at 512-974-9727.