The question I get asked most is if we only pick restaurants who advertise with the magazine. In fact, I was asked that very thing point blank when I was on 98 Rock recently.
The short answer is no, no way, no how. If we were in some kind of collusion, our magazine would have been a lot fatter with ads than it was this month.
Now, here’s where I’ll probably get into trouble for not paying attention. I honestly have no clue who advertises with us. Really! I’m too busy focusing on the editorial content. We’re a small staff. There are too many headlines, cutlines, rewrites, and copy edits to be done.
On the flip side, our ad reps have no idea who makes the top restaurants list until they see the printed magazine, just like our readers. I’m not sure how the misperception got started, but editorial ethics is alive and well at the magazine, just like at newspapers.
The editorial staff also is separate geographically from the advertising and marketing folks. They’re at one end of the building. We’re at the other. We hardly ever bump into each other unless we’re vying for space in the microwave for our Lean Cuisines.
This year, we also took the step of rating the restaurants to make the list more exciting for our readers and to keep the restaurants on their toes. It wasn’t haphazard. We focused on restaurants that serve dinner. We know there are a lot of great lunch and breakfast places out there. We’ll give them attention another time.
We also used a point system from one to five, with five being the highest, in four categories: food, service, ambiance, and value. When the restaurants were close or even in number, we turned to more intangible criteria. Was the temperature comfortable? Were the tables close together? Was the music loud—or bad! But one thing that never enters into the editorial discussion is who is advertising with us, whether for top restaurants or any other stories.
And just because we picked the top 50 doesn’t undermine all the hundreds of other eating establishments out there. There are a lot of good ones. There’s just a lot of competition.
Maybe we should follow in the Washingtonian’s footsteps. It does a top 100. I don’t think I have enough fat pants for that endeavor. But who knows what will happen next year!