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 May 13, 2015
Yesterday, Packers fans were delighted to watch Aaron Rodgers dominate on "Celebrity Jeopardy." Indeed, it feels nice to have a smart guy calling signals under center (in your face, Jay Cutler). But Wisconsin sports have been full of intelligent players through the years. Here are six.
Published April 30, 2015
Just a few years ago, all Katie Daly knew about candles is that they smelled nice, and she liked having them around the house. Her boyfriend, Cody Weiss, didn't disagree. But Daly, always a self-admitted "type-A antsy person" found herself bored and browsing Pinterest one day, when she saw a how-to guide to making soy candles in Mason jars. The corporate trainer melted some wax on the stove, adding some lavender oil - and found herself surprised when the candle actually burned.
Published April 6, 2015
Something weird happened to me around the beginning August last year: I started wanting the Brewers season to be over.
Published April 3, 2015
Here are seven recent Brewers pitchers that I would love to get back. Even if these weren't necessarily the best players, they each brought something special to the crew.
Published April 2, 2015
In a time when Zappos and Amazon and brick-and-mortar sporting good chains have cemented their spot as go-to places for running shoes and apparel, you might not think that starting a local running store would be a sound business idea. Don't tell that to Jessica and Trae Hoepner, the owners of Performance Running Outfitters, a business that started with one humble store and expanded to three, with a fourth in the works.
Published March 19, 2015
My 18th annual Brewers Spring Training trip is now complete, and I'm back in chilly Milwaukee, which actually feels a little better after a few days under the beating hot sun of the desert. This trip was a good one. A really good one. New experiences, old friends and lots and lots of baseball. But you probably know about all that if you read my blog entries this week.
Published March 18, 2015
When I left off yesterday, I was feeling tan, rested and ready for baseball, and we made the 30-minute drive from Talking Stick Resort to Peoria Stadium a little before noon. Brewers fans were out in force for the game against the Padres. St. Patty's Day revelry was in full effect.
Published March 17, 2015
I've said this before, but sometimes Spring Training feels a lot like the movie "Groundhog Day." Events, games and trips tend to run together, because with only a few variations, you're basically doing the same thing every day (and of course, that's a very good thing). But yesterday, we did something that we've only done one other time in 18 years: we didn't go to a Brewers game.
Published March 16, 2015
When you've been awake for 24 consecutive hours, due to an early flight, a time change and the excitement of an 18th consecutive Spring Training trip to Arizona, it's understandable to make a few bad decisions. Fortunately, the only one I regret is that humungous carne asada burrito from Filiberto's at 2 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, before collapsing into a few hours of sleep at the Talking Stick Resort here in Scottsdale.
Published March 10, 2015
Every year - since 1998 - I've made the trip to Arizona to watch the Brewers get ready for a long, long season of baseball. It's my favorite work/fun trip (edging out even Las Vegas) that I get to take, but with all the fun and sun in the desert, it's surprisingly easy to forget to pay attention to the baseball on the field.