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 Jan. 6, 2015
I remember back in college, I came to the realization that several different versions existed of me. Those different versions of me continue to this day, but nowhere are they more pronounced than on social media. I embraced Twitter long before Facebook and Instagram, but now active on all three, you'll experience a totally different Andy Tarnoff if you only look in one place.
Published Dec. 30, 2014
These year-end lists are always fun to write, because they are so open-ended. So bear with me if I skip the regular categories and think outside the box a little for this one.
Published Dec. 29, 2014
As you can imagine, it's not easy being a four-season bike shop in a state where it's possible to see snow on the ground for eight months out of the year. But Steve Whitford, co-owner of South Shore Cyclery in Cudahy, says he knows no other way.
Published Dec. 22, 2014
I remember vividly how hard school was. Not just the homework, but the routine of waking up early, navigating its social intricacies. Granted, my daughter is only in K5, but still, she works hard - so I like to reward her with plenty of family fun when seasonal school vacations come around.
Published Dec. 17, 2014
Yesterday, I walked around Packard Avenue in Cudahy for the first time in a long time. I mean, I drive through or around Cudahy all the time, but yesterday was different. I stopped to smell the roses. Every real Milwaukeeans should pay a visit to downtown Cudahy every now and then. It's like a window into our past, and it's still alive and kicking today.
Published Dec. 11, 2014
We all had a good laugh when the word spilled that Scott Walker substituted "Molotov" for "Mazel Tov" in his Hanukkah letter to Frank Gimbel. But you know that Gov. Walker didn't write that letter, right? He didn't even sign it.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
Black Friday and Cyber Monday were good fun, but Giving Tuesday is all about giving back to our community. It's a relatively new concept, but several Milwaukee nonprofits participate, including Discovery World, UPAF and Pathfinders. One local organization, Penfield Children's Center, is making Giving Tuesday work through crowdsourcing.
Published Dec. 1, 2014
I'm going to beat the Milwaukee winter. I will not be cold again. I will laugh in the face of Snowmageddon. I will be toasty warm when the temperatures drop well below zero. Here's how.
Published Nov. 18, 2014
Take it for what its worth, but Playboy Magazine has Blue's Egg as one of its 101 best breakfasts in America (don't worry, the link is reasonably safe for work). The restaurant at 317 N. 76th St. came in 21st place out of 23 Midwest selections, just behind Mickie's Dairy Bar in Madison.
Published Nov. 11, 2014
Can you imagine how social media would've melted down exactly 101 years ago? Nov. 11, 2013 was the end of the "Big Blow," the "Freshwater Fury" or the "White Hurricane," a hurricane-force blizzard that killed more than 250 people and and destroyed 19 ships.