For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."
I see just about every piece of feedback to our annual "best of dining" poll, and not surprisingly, a lot of it is negative.
That's not because people don't enjoy voting and reading the results. In fact, this is some of our most-read content all year long. Rather, more people tend to comment critically, instead of supporting. That's just how it works, and we're fine with that.
The biggest complaint? We hear from many readers who don't agree with a restaurant that wins, that "it's just a popularity contest."
Well, yes. Yes, it is.
Obviously, of the thousands of votes cast in poll, the most popular restaurant wins. Sometimes it's the best one. Sometimes it's the one the most people have heard of. Clearly, deciding who's the "best," is very subjective, which is why we also weigh in with our own editors' picks. Sometimes we agree with our readers, as was the case when we both selected The Odd Duck as best new restaurant. Sometimes, we don't, like when our readers chose The Cheesecake Factory for best restaurant in the northern suburbs, but we chose Three Lions Pubs.
In many cases, we know full well who will win a category before the voting even starts. Some candidates win by such a huge margin every year that we wish we could take them off, just so another place could have a chance. But that's not really fair, is it?
"Popularity," it seems, comes from a number of factors. Who advertises the most seems to be the most logical one, but speaking as the owner of a company that derives most of its revenue through advertising, we don't actually have a ton of restaurant clients (most of our advertisers are larger regional and national clients). In fact, the restaurants that spend the most in TV, radio, outdoor, print and online are not usually the big winners in our polls.
Most of the name recognition comes from longevity, I think, especially from voters who've never even tried a type of cuisine listed in the poll. For example, we look at the number of total votes cast in each question, and frequently the ones with the most skipped votes have the biggest winners.
And, of course, longevity leads one to believe that a restaurant must be pretty good if it's survived so long. This isn't always the case, of course, but it's a good indicator that it's doing something right.
More recently, restaurants with a strong social media presence have performed much better than ones that don't. Restaurants have used Twitter and Facebook and e-mail blasts to get the word out to their loyal fans, and that approach has hurt the old-school places that are oblivious to new media. Fortunately, our system does a good job at restricting readers to one vote per poll, but of course, it's not perfect ... though it's much better than other polls that allow unlimited voting.
Where am I going with this? Restaurants (and fans of restaurants) that care about winning don't necessarily have to spend the most to win. Rather, they have to rally their customers, use the free tools out there to get the word out, and most importantly, be good.
And, while it's fine to rip on your fellow Milwaukeeans for making the wrong choice, do remember that it's an honor just to be nominated. To be considered in the top 15 sports bars or bugger joints or pizza places already shows that a restaurant has to be good.
Who comes in first or second place only really matters if you let it.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published April 28, 2016
Angry readers, self-righteous writers and surly social media speculators are in a tizzy about an uptick in "clickbait," and in many respects, they have every right to be. In lots of cases, it's a bogus attempt to lure gullible readers, and ultimately, it won't and doesn't work.
Published April 25, 2016
I've known about Mel Brooks' upcoming June 11 visit to Milwaukee for a little while now. Make no mistake, this is a "bucket list" show for me: Brooks is one of my all-time favorites in Hollywood, and "Blazing Saddles" has sat atop my favorite movie list forever.
Published April 15, 2016
For the many dozens of times I've visited the historic Pfister Hotel - for meetings, meals, weddings and drinks - until prepping for OnMilwaukee Hotel Week, I never spent an overnight at this Victorian masterpiece. Cross that off my bucket list - and I didn't even have to meet a ghost to do it.
Published April 14, 2016
As today's the wonderfully-made up "414 Day," or "Milwaukee Day," depending on who you talk to - it's a sexy day to look back at this excellent video from 2014 by the Five Card Studs.
Published April 11, 2016
I've been binge-watching HBO's "Vinyl." During a scene at an L.A. beach party, the camera panned to a sideburned record executive, smoking a joint and talking about Elvis. Even 25 years since I saw him last, I knew immediately that was my friend from high school, Dave Shalansky. I'd recognize that guy anywhere.
Published April 4, 2016
I'm sitting here on Opening Day, in the first row of the press box at Miller Park, and it's quiet. Too quiet. I mean, I can hear the fans in the ventilation over the sound of stands in this not-sold-out stadium. Apparently, other people here are either rolling their eyes in the fifth inning (or they're passed out).
Published April 2, 2016
It's been a long while since we interviewed FOX6 meteorologist Vince Condella for a personal profile, but with the long-time weather man's upcoming retirement, it was time to catch up.
Published March 15, 2016
I'm a big fan of Atlas Obscura, a website that calls itself "the definitive guide to the world's wondrous and curious places." And it does a good job. Yesterday, it took a look at Milwaukee and its 12 quirky treasures.
Published March 3, 2016
Sometimes, the `90s in Milwaukee feel like a distant memory; other times I can't believe they're so long gone. But then I looked at some of the photos I took while building the shell of what would eventually become OnMilwaukee, and these scenes seem ancient, indeed.
Published Feb. 19, 2016
On Saturday night, Mills Entertainment is bringing Christopher Lloyd, known to a generation as Doc Brown from the "Back to the Future" trilogy, to the Riverside Theater for a first-ever event. Not only will the theater show fans the first blockbuster movie from 1985, but Lloyd will be on hand to take questions and speak about the experience making the movies.