Markers of Trust: Finding Great Restaurants

One of my favorite local restaurants is Story in Prairie Village, Kansas. My wife and I have enjoyed many meals there and admire their consistent quality and first-rate service. In 2013, the head chef and owner of Story, Carl Thorne-Thompsen, was named a James Beard Award semifinalist nominee for Best Chef in the Midwest. This is a very prestigious nomination from the James Beard Foundation, which highlights the best of the best in American food culture by recognizing talented chefs, world-class restaurants, and the media platforms that make a difference through their food coverage.

A few years later, Alice and I found ourselves traveling in Minneapolis and searching for a place to have dinner. The thought occurred that we should look at local listings to see which restaurants had been recognized by the James Beard Foundation. Through this process, we discovered Corner Table. It was a delicious meal and a memorable dining experience. It is currently closed for a “refresh” according to the owners.

Since discovering Corner Table, we’ve often turned to the James Beard Foundation (JBF) when making dinner plans away from home. The restaurants we’ve found have quickly become favorites and we look forward to returning to them when we’re nearby.

Markers of Trust

For Alice and me, JBF nominees and winners have become a selection criteria that we turn to often. After so many positive experiences, we’ve come to trust that the restaurants they recognize will deliver everything we prioritize as consumers – great food, ambiance, and service. What makes the James Beard Awards such a valuable marker of trust?

There are many different platforms people turn to when deciding where to eat. I appreciate the JBF Awards because they are decided by a rotating awards committee comprised of a wide variety of industry specialists, from food writers to managing directors to pastry chefs. The result is a pure recognition process in which experts reward the best of the best without regard to popularity, external reviews, or social media clout. 

The alternative, turning to a restaurant recommendation platform like yelp or Open Table, feels less trustworthy in comparison. Often, recommendation sites are run like a popularity contest.

Consumer Decision-Making

What it comes down to is trust. Which type of recommendation enables consumers to trust in a quantity that they haven’t yet experienced, whether a restaurant, retail store, or service offering? I find it easiest to trust industry insiders working through an unbiased recommendation and review process. And from New York to Los Angeles and many places in between, the James Beard Foundation has yet to let us down.

What platforms or awards strike you as valuable markers of trust? How has a particular selection criteria informed your decision-making process?


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