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Café Competition Adds Sweeteners

Café Competition Adds Sweeteners

New criteria and more prizes in fourth year

New Zealand’s popular Café of the Year award is sweetening up the competition with changes to the structure and prizes of the awards.

It’s the fourth year of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand sanctioned competition which selects finalists from six regions to go head to head for the title of best café in the nation.

With the growth of the awards, new categories have been introduced for the regional competition – Best Metro, Best Suburban, Best Rural and Best Classic Kiwi café, and the People’s Choice.

The judging process has changed this year. The entrants are shortlisted, and then judged, by industry experts to find the winners.

Regionally, consumers can also vote for the People’s Choice category with the national winner decided on the most votes. Votes a café receives contribute to the overall score it receives in the shortlisting and judging phase. Plus, regional People’s Choice winners are also automatically entered to the judges’ shortlist.

Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois says the aim of the awards revamp has been to expose the competition to a larger number of cafés throughout New Zealand.

“We’ve learned during the previous three years there is strong and constantly growing interest among owners and managers in the awards.

“The addition of the four new categories is designed to satisfy that demand while providing prizes that reflect the scale and enthusiasm of the people in the industry.”

Establishments need to register for the fourth annual NZ Café of the Year Award by 14 August at Public voting follows through to mid-October and the finalists and People’s Choice winner are announced on 1 November. The winners of each category and the supreme Café of the Year are announced in early December.

The awards are organised by Auckland-based Image Centre Group (ICG) supported by key sponsors Meadow Fresh and Heinz Watties. Also supporting the programme are Renault, Dish Magazine, and the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.
Ms Bidois says cafés are judged on a range of factors including atmosphere and appearance, menu meal and coffee, service and staff interaction and overall impression.

The supreme winner takes away not only the prestige of NZ Café of the Year but also a $40,000 editorial package in Dish Magazine’s January 2016 issue. It also wins for its owners a ‘Great Cafés of Melbourne Tour’ valued at $10,000. The supreme winning café also receives the use of Renault Kangoo for a year.

Café voters have the chance to win brunch at their favourite café. There are 10 prizes of $50 per week to win over the eight week period of the campaign.

Full information can be found at

Last year’s supreme winner was Dunedin’s Ironic Café. That event attracted more than 1,000 entries and more than 37,000 votes from the public.

Entry criteria
Cafés must register to enter the competition but there is no pre-requisite for sponsors’ products to be included in a nominated dish. Details are on the website.

The judging process
Café-goers vote for their favourite café in four categories in each of six regions and three in each category become a finalist. 72 finalists are shortlisted, plus six regional People’s Choice finalists are then entered into the Café of the Year judging phase. One winner is selected in each of the four categories, from which the supreme winner of Café of the Year for 2016 is chosen.

Top cafés microsite
The top three cafés from each category in each region, the six regional winners and the Sponsor’s Choice winner will all feature in a Top Cafés of New Zealand microsite hosted by Dish and Café of the Year with location, contact details and a short descriptor. The site will serve as a guide to 80 great cafes across the country.

About Café Of The Year
Café Of The Year was launched by the Image Centre Group in 2012. More than 400 entries were received nationwide in the first year, 660 in 2013 and more than 1,000 in 2014. Regions are Upper North Island (North of Orewa), Urban Auckland (Orewa to Papakura), Lower North Island (South of Bombay), Wellington, Christchurch and South Island Regions.


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