By Rosie Mitchell
At African Distillers today, in the unusual underground setting of the company’s own Private Cellar, the finalists for the Zimbabwe on a Plate, Zimbabwe in a Glass (Zoap) Restaurants of the Year Awards 2011 from all over the country gather, to hear at last how they have fared.
In the earlier days of Zoap, which was launched in 2006, all competition entrants were invited to this prestigious awards event, but times are different now. There are far more entrants, for one thing, and for another, costs have shot up.
For the 2009 and 2010 joint awards ceremony the “finalists only” approach was adopted, along with a small handful of the sponsors’ representatives, including some of Alpha Media Holdings’ top brass. AMH’s CEO Raphael Khumalo is one of the guest speakers today while Nevanji Madanhire, Editor of The Standard will be presenting some of the awards.
Zoap has long since come of age and gained full acceptance in the trade and with the dining public, who follow the competition keenly. Diners find the year round reviews and articles in the weekly Zoap double page spread and the Restaurant Guide in The Standard invaluable, when deciding where to eat that will meet their particular needs, and what’s new out there, in the restaurant trade.
The competition now has seven entry categories, and in 2009 introduced the Service Personality of the Year Award, so that the oft unsung heroes of the trade could receive some well-earned glory.
The 25-strong review team, year round, can nominate particularly outstanding service personnel when dining out, whether or not they are on reviewing duty at the time.
All those nominated receive accolades via the publication of their name as Service Personality of the Month at the time, and as a result are then named finalist for this annual award, have their names in The Standard several times, receive a framed Zoap Service Personality of the Month and Finalist for Personality of the Year Certificate, and a special Zoap name badge announcing their status as such. Even though they can’t all win the award, those nominated get plenty of kudos by having impressed some of Zoap’s secret review team!
The 2010 Zoap awards brought a number of surprises, with some winners of several years’ running being toppled, and the guessing game has reached fever pitch in the past couple of weeks, as to whether 2011 will likewise bring any new and surprising outcomes.
The Deluxe category in particular has such a long list of superb restaurants that it’s anybody’s guess who will be the winner!
One thing’s for certain. Reaching the finals speaks for itself, in terms of the quality of the dining experience offered by those listed on these pages.
Choosing the winners, for the Judging Panel, was more difficult than ever for 2011, and while not everyone can win, to have gained a Five Plate Rating or have been nominated as a Finalist Service Personality is an admirable achievement, of which all those so named can be suitably proud.
Why honour service personalities
The service personality award has been very well-received. Service staff in restaurants work extremely hard and often bear the brunt when a restaurant is under pressure, things go wrong and diners complain —often vociferously, even abusively — and almost always, initially, at the serving staff! So it is very appropriate for service people to have a chance to shine in the competition in this way, and it is very pleasing to note that no less than 26 service people were nominated for 2011.