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Please see below for some frequently asked questions about the awards. If your query is not answered here, please feel free to contact us.

  • What are the Irish Restaurant Awards?

The Irish Restaurant Awards are organised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland. This is the 12th annual awards and has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in 2009. Our aim is to recognise excellence in the restaurant industry from Best Customer Service Experience to Best Chef, and Best Café to Best World Cuisine. We have a rigorous process of nominations, judging, mystery guest inspections and more. This level of assessment has made the Irish Restaurant Awards the biggest and most credible in the country.

  • What is the Restaurants Association of Ireland?

We are a representative body for restaurants/hotel restaurants/cafes/gastro pubs. Our main aim is to defend the interests of the restaurant sector in Ireland. We run various lobbying campaigns, events, training and saving schemes for members across a wide variety of services. Please see for more information or contact us on 01 677 9901 and select the option for membership.


  • How do I get nominated for an award?

Nominations are made by the general public, so if you would like to be nominated for an award, encourage your customers, family and friends to nominate you via the Irish Times website between the 8th and 22nd of January 2020.

  • Do I have to register to be nominated for an award?

No, if you receive a nomination then we will contact you after the nominations have closed.

  • How can I better my chances of being nominated?

Besides encouraging your customers to nominate you (social media, tent cards on tables etc.), you can also make sure your restaurant/cafe/gastro pub is listed properly on Google. When someone nominates, they start typing in the name and the form will pull information from Google. If your business is registered correctly then there should be no issue in the correct place appearing. For more information on this please see here

  • Do I have to be a member of the RAI to win an award?

Absolutely not – the awards are open to everyone in the country regardless of whether or not you are a member. However, you do receive some benefits as a member such as a discount on ticket prices for all awards events, direct updates & notifications of the awards each year and some posters and  widgets to help encourage your customers to nominate you

  • We received a letter to say we have been nominated, what does this mean?

For two weeks in January, the public were able to nominate their favourite restaurants, cafes, gastro pubs, chefs and food heroes through You received a letter because they chose you as their favourite establishment which means you now have the chance to win an award


  • What happens next?

You are invited to come along to the regional awards event in your province. See here for more details on venues, dates and how to buy tickets. Winners will be announced by category and by county, i.e. Best chef in Louth, Best Chef in Meath etc.

  • What are my chances of winning? How can I improve them?

At this stage, your only competition is your own county (or province if it a regional award category). There is nothing you can do now as the nominations are closed, so you will have to wait and see if you have won.

  • Do I have to attend the awards to win?

No you do not have to attend and it will not affect the results. If you have won an award but cannot attend the awards event, you will be notified the following day and a certificate will be couriered out to you.

  • Has someone been into my premises? How will I be judged?

Nobody has visited the premises at this point – that only happens after you win a county level award, or have been shortlisted (Dublin). The number of nominations you received (worth 20%) are combined with the results from a regional judging panel (worth 80%) to give us our county winners.

  • How does the judging panel work – how do they know my establishment?

The judging panel is made up of food critics, bloggers, academics, people in the food and hospitality industry. Every county is represented and they research the nominees beforehand. They have a round-table discussion to determine the winners based on how many nominations they received and their own professional opinions. We choose four regional panels of judges so that there is good geographical representation (judges from Connaught will judge the nominees in Connaught and so on).

  • Someone was nominated who no longer works here, can I change the name?

If a chef for example no longer works in an establishment, the nomination will not be counted. Unfortunately we are also not able to change a nomination to the correct chef. Nominations must be whole (e.g. Chef name and restaurant name) and correct to be counted as valid. The results are audited immediately after the nominations close, and a wrong name is simply an invalid nomination.


  • How can I attend the Regional Awards Events?

About 2 to 3 weeks before each event, we will provide a link to buy tickets online here

  • How much are tickets to the Regional Events?

Tickets will cost €30 for RAI members and €35 for non members. Members can contact us on 01 677 9901 for the discount code

  • Will I get actual tickets for the Regional Event?

No actual tickets are being issued – your restaurant name will be on the door

  • Is there a limit on how many people I can bring to the regional event?

No, but the RAI have the right to refuse large groups (15+) if there are limited numbers of tickets left available (we want every nominee to have the chance to attend)

  • Can I pay by bank transfer or cheque?

We must receive all cheques before the event. Bank transfers can only be done 7 days prior to the event, no later.

  • Can I buy tickets on the door?

No, tickets must be purchased before the event. Payment will not be accepted on the night.

  • Can I bring children to the event?

Unfortunately, children under 18 years of age are not allowed to attend the awards events as alcohol will be served openly.

  • Will it be a seated event?

No – this is a standing, reception style event. If you have a physical disability or are unable to stand for long periods of time we are more than happy to arrange chairs for you. Let us know in advance if possible so we can inform the venue.

  • What is included in the ticket price?

Your ticket will cover entry to the event, canapes and a drinks reception on arrival, followed by the awards ceremony itself. There will also be a collection of local food producers at each event sampling their goods and products.

  • How long does it go on for?

The actual ceremony will last around 1.5 – 2 hours. The Leinster awards can be a bit longer. Doors will open at 7:00pm for a drinks and canapes reception and the ceremony will commence at 8:00pm.


  • If I win, what happens next?

If you win a county award or are shortlisted as a finalist in Dublin, you will receive a mystery guest inspection, and a national judging academy will also cast their votes. The mystery guest inspection is worth 40% and the National Academy judging is worth 60%. See here for more details on the judging process

  • When will the mystery guest inspector arrive?

Before a mystery diner is sent to your premises, you will be contacted by Customer Perceptions who will ask your permission to conduct the visit. If you agree to a visit, you will not be told when it will be carried out, but it will be between that phone call and about the 15th of April.

  • Do I have to pay for the mystery guest inspection?

No. You will be asked however to provide a three course meal for two people with a bottle of house wine (or tea/coffee) free of charge when the inspector produces their ID.

  • What if I do not want to receive a mystery guest inspection?

That is absolutely fine and we will respect your wishes, but you will not be able to go forward to the next stage of the awards, and will not be eligible to win at the All-Ireland/Regional level.

  • Will I find out the results of the mystery guest inspection?

Yes, you will be sent a comprehensive report from Customer Perceptions including a recording of the phone call made for the initial booking.

  • I have been nominated in a National Category, how will that be judged?

National Category nominees are not subject to a mystery guest inspection. With the exception of Best Cocktail Experience, all National categories will be shortlisted in April by The National Academy Judging Panel. The panel will choose their overall winners in each category through research and their own expertise. These winners will be announced on the 18th of May at the All Ireland Final. For Best Cocktail Experience, nominees will be invited to compete in a live cocktail competition, location to be confirmed. The winner will be decided by a panel of judges from the Bartenders Association of Ireland . The winner will also be announced on the 18th of May 2020.


  • How can I attend the All Ireland Final awards ceremony?

If you have won a county/regional award or if you have been shortlisted (Dublin or National Categories) then you are invited to attend the All Ireland Awards in the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road on the 18th of May 2020. You can buy tickets online through a link that will be provided closer to the time

  • How much do tickets cost?

RAI Member:

Early Bird Ticket (before 29th April): €145

Standard Ticket: €160

Early Bird Table of 12 (€140 per ticket): €1680

RAI Member Table of 12 (€155 per ticket): €1860


Early Bird Ticket (before 29th April): €160

Standard Ticket: €175

Early Bird Table of 12 (€155 per ticket): €1860

Non-Member Table of 12 (€170 per ticket): €2040

  • How many people can you fit at one table?

The tables seat no more than 12 people, we cannot add an extra seat to a table

  • We want more than 12 tickets, how can we all sit together?

You can either take one full table of 12 and have the remaining people on the next table, or split it however you like between two tables. Note that you will be sharing with other guests. If it is done in one booking, you will be guaranteed to have your tables next to each other.

  • Can I buy tickets on the door?

Tickets MUST be paid for in full in advance without exception. We will not accept payment on the night and all seats are allocated in advance. You will be refused entry if you have not bought a ticket in advance.

  • What is your refund policy on All Ireland Tickets?

A full refund will be given to any tickets cancelled on or before the 26th of April 2020. After this date, tickets are non-refundable. They may however be transferred to another person, just let us know the change of name.

  • What is the dress code?

Please note this is strictly a BLACK TIE event – tuxedos are recommended for men and evening gowns for women.

  • Will tickets be posted in advance?

No, there will be no paper tickets. You will receive an email confirmation as your proof of purchase and there will be a guest list at the door.

  • Is there a limit on how many tickets I can buy?

This is dependent on availability. Book early to avoid disappointment if you have a large group. Again, the RAI can refuse large groups if there is limited seats left – we want every finalist to have a chance to attend the awards.

  • How long is the event?

The drinks/canape reception starts at 6:30pm, then all guests must be seated by 7:20pm. Dinner and the awards ceremony will start at 7:30pm sharp, and go on until 11:30pm, followed by entertainment into the early hours.

  • Can I bring children to the event?

This is strictly an over 18’s only event. Alcohol will be served openly and it is a late night event.

  • Can I choose where our table/seats are?

We can take requests and always try our best to cater to them, but there are no guarantees due to the large number of attendees. Once you are allocated a seat on the table plan, that is final and there will be no swapping permitted on the night.

  • Do you cater to dietary requests?

We will have a vegetarian menu available on the night, and all allergens will be listed on both menus (we cannot reveal the menus until the night itself). Unfortunately we are unable to cater for specific dietary needs (coeliac, lactose intolerant etc.) due to the large number of guests in attendance.

  • When will I know my table number?

There will be a table/seating plan at the drinks reception on the night and we will have staff on hand to guide you to your seat

If you have a question that is not answered here, please let us know by emailing or call us on 01 677 9901

Our thanks to