WRMC - Restaurants Quality Recognition Awards in the Maltese Islands: creating and maintaining awareness for quality in both restaurateurs and the dining public. An interview with Reno Spiteri, WRMC Executive Director.
It goes without saying that just pushing for quality in the restaurant industry without directly creating a substantial, quality awareness within the dining public, the clients, the people who spend their hard earned money to dine out, the people that are the life-blood of the industry, would simply be an exercise in futility. People have to be involved through forums and discussion groups to air their views, and through media features, TV and radio programmes aimed to directly educate the man in the street, plus forums on social media and dedicated websites.
The WRMC is at the forefront in this respect. Run by a board of directors and several consultants and headed by Reno Spiteri the WRMC’s Executive Director, this organization is tireless in its efforts to place Malta on the culinary map of the world.
What is the WRMC and what are its specific aims?
WRMC stands for Wines and Restaurants of Malta.Com as the organization started first as a social media group and then evolved into a dedicated website, featuring the Annual WRMC Restaurant Guides and WRMC Awards recipients, with other features.
The social media group, Restaurants In Malta: The Good; The Bad; The Rip-Offs was started in 2009 and has now grown into the leading restaurants review open forum group in the Maltese islands with well over 33,000 active members who regularly post reviews of their dining experiences or comment on reviews posted by us as administrators as well as by other members. There are of course some rules to be followed and our transparency rules are very strict.
In 2012 we set-up the website winesandrestaurantsofmalta.com through which we started to review top restaurants and rate them for cuisine quality, service, value for money and general ambience. This became very popular within the restaurant industry and especially frequent restaurant diners as it provided an objective view on the best restaurant choices on these islands.
It was then decided to organize a quality recognition awards scheme based on direct restaurant inspections by the WRMC directors and appointed professional consultants in this field. The main policy has always been from the start, that awards are to be conferred to the actual restaurant objectively though assessments and adjudication of the quality, regardless of the concept, location or ownership. Restaurants get an award because they deserve it and not because they would have paid for it through fees or advertising. In fact we do not accept advertising from restaurants and /or levy any fees.
Are the assessments and adjudications based on any international criteria or requirements?
Before we started with the first awards event in January 2013, we had discussed our programme and obtained various information from overseas awarding entities. We researched criteria from the likes of MICHELIN; we saw what the AA of the United Kingdom are basing their Rosette awards on; we also researched Australia as well as the USA, and Gambero Rosso of Italy.
Finally, based on this research, we decided that to arrive at the quality that we wanted, we have to directly inspect selected restaurants ourselves and through appointed anonymous inspectors of those restaurants that would have been shortlisted. This is no mean feat, as we inspect well over one hundred, carefully selected restaurants in any one year, to finally arrive at the best selections from the already very strict shortlist.
What are the awards conferred and what is the criteria?
The main restaurant awards are the following:
The WRMC Two Silver Spoon Award
Awarded for consistently, exceptional cuisine quality and service well above those required for the One Silver Spoon Award.
This award was first conferred during the WRMC Awards Gala Dinner which was held in January, 2023 at the Hilton Malta. Only five restaurants have been conferred with this award, as the criteria is very demanding, and restaurants conferred with this award must have been awarded the One Silver Spoon Award, and have held it for at least two years. Restaurants can lose their awards for a number of reasons which would jeopardise quality.
The WRMC Silver Spoon Award
Fine and up-market Dining Restaurants – consistently outstanding cuisine quality, preparation and presentation, management, service, value and ambience.
Excellent and outstanding restaurants that aim for and achieve outstanding standards and better consistency outside their local area. A greater precision is apparent in the cooking, and there will be obvious attention to the selection of quality ingredients. A decently, priced wine list offering local and international premium wine selections.
Destination restaurants that would surpass expectations and warrant clients travelling to reach them. They are sought after for their very good cuisine, outstanding service, ambience and value. The restaurant must have been in operation under the same operator and Executive Chef for at least two years or more to be even considered for assessment under this category.
Recipients of both the Two Silver Spoon Award and the One Silver Spoon Award can add the title of the awards with the restaurant’s name, in promotions and advertising.
Other awards include; The WRMC Blue Riband Award, The WRMC Top Ten Special Concept and Casual Dining Restaurants Award, and The WRMC Special Concept Award.
We believe that the WRMC also confers various personal awards to deserving individuals in the hotels and restaurants industries. Can you elaborate on this?
Yes, the success of these industries depend to a large extent on the competence, passion, and commitment of its operators and employees. With this in mind and to give direct recognition to the top people in these industries the WRMC confers the following awards yearly: WRMC Lifetime Achievement Award, WRMC Front of House Service Award, WRMC Chef of the Year Award, WRMC Restaurateur of the Year Award as well as Le Dames Culinaire Award.
In Malta is there a mentality or enough education and knowledge among restaurateurs to endeavour to obtain these awards? Do consumers select these restaurants for quality over and above others?
With reference to restaurants we confer various awards to about sixty-five establishments every year. The gala dinner and awards ceremony which are held on the third Monday of January every year is always fully booked with well over 300 guests and professionals from the hotels and restaurants industries.
Restaurateurs proudly display these awards at their establishments as well as most advertise themselves as having achieved the standards required. The WRMC Individual awards are very highly coveted by Restaurateurs, Chefs and Front-of-House Managers as these indicate their prowess and expertise in their respective fields through individual and direct inspections and assessments by professionals.
When we talk about the consumer, knowledgeable visitors to our country, have more anticipation of good experiences from awarded restaurants through national and international bodies, albeit with value for money on their minds.
In Malta the WRMC, through our website, appearances on TV programmes and radio talk shows, magazines, and through our social media pages and groups we are reaching thousands of persons every day. Through our reviews and features we are guiding consumers to select these restaurants as being among the very best in Malta and which offer the best experiences and value for money, naturally depending on the concept of the establishment and the cuisine served.
So when is the next awards’ event going to be held?
The 10th edition of the WRMC Restaurants Quality Recognition Awards Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony, is scheduled to be held on Monday, the 22nd of January, 2024 at the Hilton Malta.
Open and anonymous inspections, reviews and assessments have already started as this entails a full year’s work. Every restaurant shortlisted, let alone conferred with an award must have been directly inspected, assessed and reviewed by us in accordance with best practice used by most other, leading awarding organizations around the world.