The National Environment Agency (NEA) will replace the existing hygiene grading system for eateries in late 2020, in the first review of its kind in more than 20 years.
The new food hygiene recognition scheme will focus on consistency, with establishments awarded bronze, silver and gold ratings based on their track records.
Eateries with no major hygiene lapses for two years will get a bronze award, and those with a clean record of five or 10 years will get silver and gold, respectively.
Currently, establishments are graded A, B, C or D annually based on a "snapshot assessment" of their premises. This system has been in place since 1997, with 99 per cent of the 36,000 licensees achieving grade A or B at the end of last year, up from 77 per cent in 2006.
The NEA said the existing system has become "less useful in helping consumers to distinguish good performers" with almost all licensees being graded A or B. Operators with good grades have also been linked to food hygiene lapses.
For new establishments that have been operating for less than two years, a label that states "working towards excellent food hygiene track record" will be displayed.
As part of the transition, eateries currently with an A grade can voluntarily apply for the new award from April 1 next year. The new scheme will take full effect from late 2020, to give time for all existing licensees to attain at least a bronze award.
Currently, only a third of eateries would receive an award if the system were to be implemented immediately, with only 5 per cent eligible to receive the gold award.
The NEA said the new scheme was developed in consultation with industry partners such as the Restaurant Association of Singapore, the Singapore Hotel Association, coffee shop associations and hawker associations.
Mr Kenneth Lee, president of Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association, praised the new scheme, saying that it allows businesses "to be transparent to customers about hygiene standards".
Catering company Food Fest added that it will benefit as "consumers will have more confidence" in placing orders.
Mr Aaron Yeo, co-founder of two-year-old cafe Waa Cow!, said consumer education is important as younger businesses will not be able to get gold regardless of their hygiene efforts.
CONSUMER EDUCATION VITAL
The public must first be able to appreciate those establishments that have achieved gold, but also understand that the establishments which have not got that rating yet are not necessarily unhygienic.
MR AARON YEO, of cafe Waa Cow!
He said: "The public must first be able to appreciate those establishments that have achieved gold, but also understand that the establishments which have not got that rating yet are not necessarily unhygienic."
The NEA said the public can check on an establishment's track record, such as its suspension history and accumulated demerit points, on its website or the myENV mobile application.
Licensees can attend a series of briefing sessions over the coming weeks for details on the scheme's implementation.