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The Judging and Selection Process

The 2020 Awards process will run from the 8th January until the 18th of May 2020. It is a lengthy and thorough process designed to reveal the best in the industry in a fair and transparent manner. Public nominations, mystery guest inspections and an expert judging panel are all involved in deciding the winners.

Main Award Category Judging

Step 1: County and Regional Winners Selection

The selection process to become a County/Regional winner in a main category involves 2 stages:

Online Nominations – 20%

Firstly, a Chef/Restaurant/Cafe/Gastro Pub/Restaurant Manager etc. must be nominated online by a member of the public. The nomination period is open for 2 weeks in January. The total number of nominations received will then be counted and audited by BDO.

Regional Judging Panels – 80%

In February, our Regional Judging Panels, made up of industry experts across the 5 regions (Dublin, Connaught, Leinster, Munster & Ulster) meet to assess the nominations.

The results from our Judging panel plus the results from the number of online nominations received are combined and then reviewed by our auditors BDO, to give an overall winner in each category – some categories have winners in every county, some have just one winner per region/province.

Step 2: Regional and All-Ireland Winners Selection

There are 2 elements to this stage in the process and the weighting per each element in 2020 is as follows:

Mystery Guest – 40%

All County Winners, Regional Category Winners and Dublin Shortlisted are visited by a mystery diner carefully selected by independent mystery shopping experts Customer Perceptions, to give an unbiased and objective review of their experience through the eyes of a consumer which contributes 40% weighting of the overall voting. The Irish Restaurant Awards are the only awards in the Industry where each of the eligible establishments receives a visit from an Independent Mystery Guest who assesses the dining experience in terms of food quality, menu, customer service, premises and overall experience.

National Judging Academy – 60%

Our National Judging Academy is made up of judges from each of the five regions (Connaught, Ulster, Munster, Leinster & Dublin) and they meet in May to cast their votes which then makes up 60% of the overall voting. The Academy members include food writers, journalists, academics, bloggers and hospitality magazine editors.

Menu Judging

In previous years, menu judging counted for 10% of the overall score. This is no longer the case. However, nominees for Best Gastro Pub, Best Kids Size Me and Best Wine Experience will be asked to provide their menus for inspection. The menus will be assessed by independent associates, and then the results of this will be presented to the National Judging Academy. This additional information will help them to choose their winners in these categories.

All of these scores are again combined and then reviewed by our auditors, BDO, and this gives us our Regional/All Ireland winners.

County Winners, Regional Category Winners and the Dublin Shortlist will be announced at Regional Awards held around the country in March 2020.  Each of these finalists will then go on to compete for the Regional/All Ireland titles which will be announced in The Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road on Monday, 18th May 2020.

National Award Category Judging

The main difference of the National Award Categories is that they each have only one All Ireland winner and they do not receive a mystery guest inspector.

For the first time, the national (formerly ‘industry’) categories can now be nominated by members of the general public, along with the main categories.

The nominations are judged by our National Awards Academy and independently assessed by our auditors, BDO. A shortlist for each category will be announced in April, before a final winner is selected in each category.

For the category ‘Best Cocktail Experience’, all nominees will be invited to participate in a live cocktail competition. This will be a private event, judged by the Bartenders Association of Ireland and Diageo.

There is only one All Ireland Winner in each of the 5 National categories. These winners will be announced in the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road on Monday, 18th May 2020. 

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