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Poll Reveals Consumers’ Greatest Concerns When Dining Out

Food Safety Issues Top List of Worries; Diners Expect High Health Inspection Scores

ATLANTA, September 6, 2007 – An independent poll released today by pest control company Orkin, Inc. found that food preparation and employee hygiene cause diners the greatest unease in restaurants.

When asked to rank a list of health issues associated with restaurants, 33 percent ranked properly cooked food first, with employee hygiene coming in a close second at 30 percent.

Why are diners so concerned about food preparation at restaurants? Often because they’ve become ill after dining out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States, causing 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases annually. The Orkin poll showed that 42 percent of adults have become ill after eating in a restaurant.

“Food safety is an important concern for diners, and rightly so,” said Orkin Director of Quality Systems, Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D. “Often, the problem starts with sanitation issues. An unclean food prep environment can expose food to microorganisms directly or indirectly by encouraging pests that carry germs.”

For restaurateurs, foodborne illness can create a ripple effect of lost business:
• 67 percent of guests who reported falling ill after dining out never returned to the establishment in question;
• 59 percent told five or more friends about the incident; and
• 39 percent even encouraged others not to eat at the offending restaurant.

Unfortunately, restaurant management may not realize a problem exists – 70 percent of surveyed customers who became ill never reported it to the restaurant. This behavior varies based on gender: poll responses showed women are one-and-a-half times more likely than men to inform the restaurant that they became ill.

Diners Expect Very Good Health Inspection Scores When determining whether or not a restaurant practices proper food safety, restaurant-goers are interested in more than passing health inspection scores. Four in 10 diners said they would not eat in a restaurant with a health inspection score of less than 90 percent.

If the health inspection score drops lower, diners have stronger reactions:
• 72 percent of diners would avoid a restaurant with a score of less than 80 percent, and
• 89 percent of diners would avoid a restaurant with a score of less than 70 percent.

Although a low health inspection score will discourage diners from eating in a restaurant, many are willing to try again. Four in 10 diners would walk out of a restaurant if they deemed the health inspection score too low, but 37 percent of those diners would return in a month to see if the score had improved.

“To get ready for their next health inspection, restaurateurs should visit Orkin’s Web site for a bi-lingual checklist on how to prepare,” Siddiqi said. “There are many simple cleaning steps that are often overlooked, but easy to implement.”

According to Siddiqi, maintaining a spotless restaurant is no easy task. During peak dining times it is especially difficult to stay on top of sanitation needs, but the key is to put a sanitation schedule into place, and to educate all employees of the steps they need to take to keep the restaurant clean.

“Crumbs on the floor, grease build-up in the kitchen and food caught in a floor or sink drain will attract pests,” Siddiqi said. “Pests can spread bacteria on food that will threaten restaurant-goers’ health and could harm a restaurant’s reputation. Restaurant owners and managers should work with their pest management professional to create a program that will keep their food fresh and their restaurant clean and full of customers.”

Poll Methodology The Orkin survey was conducted by Acromatics using FGI Research service from March 30-April 4, 2007. The online survey polled 1,052 adults (aged 18 and over) in the contiguous United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3 percentage points.