Convenience store Morning to Midnight, or M2M, has always been a consistent high-achiever: From 2013 to 2015, it never scored lower than a ‘B’ on the New York State Health Department’s annual inspection, cementing its status as a restaurant deserving of its prestigious location across the street from the U.S. News-rated 5th best school in the nation. But in 2016, a ‘C’ grade tarnished its near perfect record, and M2M’s owner, Kyle Sun, can think of only one explanation: Grade deflation.
Sun’s claim goes against the popular conception that restaurants near Ivy League colleges benefit from rampant grade inflation. In 2015, the Pew Report studied the grades of Ivy League eateries and found that an ‘A’ is the most common health rating; and a whopping 90% of these restaurants never have earned a grade lower than a ‘B’.
The grade docking also comes amid widespread accusations of inspectors unfairly favoring athletic establishments. Sun complained, “I think it’s totally unfair. I work my ass off sweeping floors and gassing bugs for my A. And come Super Bowl season these inspectors are making it rain A’s and B’s on these sports bars like you can’t even see the mold growing on the ceiling tiles. It’s sickening.”
Sun acknowledges that this data suggests inflation, but insists that health inspectors near Ivy League colleges are starting to enforce stricter policies. “The inspectors don’t want to be thought of as too lenient, so they’re getting stingier with grades,” Sun says. “But I think they’ve gone too far – restaurants near Ivy League colleges are the cleanest in the nation. Why shouldn’t they all get good grades? I mean, my parents pay enough for me to be here!”
But health reports suggest that Ivy League eateries might not be as clean as Sun thinks. M2M’s own recent inspection produced no short list of violations: cold food held above 41 degrees fahrenheit; filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas; facility not vermin proof; tobacco use; eating, or drinking from open containers in food preparation. And there are so many Asian restaurants to compete with.”
But Sun says these are not new developments and doesn’t think they warrant a low grade. “We’ve never washed our hands after pooping or sprayed insect repellant on the roach nests,” Sun says. “We’ve always maintained a consistently low standard with impunity, so this decision feels very arbitrary.”
The recent blow to M2M’s reputation has made Sun wonder whether choosing to operate a restaurant near an Ivy League campus was a prudent choice. “My friends who set up restaurants near state schools never clean their counters. Nor do they ever call the exterminator. Yet they still get higher health ratings than I do,” Sun says. “But in my case, I’m around such competitive restaurants that standards are impossibly high – the health inspector finds fecal bacteria on your counter once and your future is tanked.”