BK Magazine’s Top Tables is Bangkok's most independent and most respected local dining guide. Here’s why.
BK Magazine’s Top Tables 2019 is out! But in celebrating this city’s best 100 restaurants we always get a lot of questions about why some places make the cut and others don’t. For that reason, we’d like to shine a spotlight on how Top Tables is made, and why we’re confident to call it the most accurate and honest assessment of Bangkok’s restaurant scene—from a local perspective.
For nearly 20 years, BK has proudly offered unbiased restaurant criticism, paying for dinners out of our own pocket and reviewing places anonymously (so as not to be influenced by pushy PRs and freebies)*.
But when it comes to Top Tables, we don’t just rely on our own knowledge. We also call on an independent panel of 30 of this city’s most serious foodies to help out. Thanks to their time and ingested calories, we’re able to compile a comprehensive and trustworthy take on the city’s top restaurants. Here’s how it works.
In December, BK Magazine creates a shortlist of 200 restaurants. These include:
• Last year’s Top Tables restaurants
• Major new openings
• Select advertisers
• An editorial selection of places that weren’t in Top Tables last year but we feel could be in the guide.
BK then selects 30 panelists:
• 3 BK food writers and editors
• 27 foodies we know to eat out a lot. Some of them may be involved in restaurants (more on that later).
The panelists are given the list of 200 restaurants and asked to rate each one on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 the highest).
If a panelist has not eaten at a restaurant in over 18 months, or since it underwent any major shift in concept/chef, they are asked to state “I don’t know.” We discount any votes for restaurants where the panelist has any involvement. We’re proud to say that, for 2019, none of our panelists were partners in restaurants that featured in the guide.
We then convert each restaurant’s stars into a point score out of 100 and keep only the top 100 highest ranked places.
Using a scale from 0-100 offers a more accurate ranking than the normal 1-5 star system and allows us to accurately adjust for “I don’t know” votes. In 2019, the lowest rated place has 63 points and the highest has 97 points.
What do you do with the “I don’t know” votes?
We apply a formula to make sure that restaurants are not heavily penalized due to lack of awareness, while also not favoring places that panelists simply don’t want to go eat at. For example, a restaurant which gets five five-star ratings and 25 “I don’t knows” will still perform much better than a place with 25 three-star ratings and five “I don’t knows” (while not achieving a clean 100 points score).
How do you select the Top 30?
Each panelist selects their top 10 restaurants. Every restaurant they rank #1 gets 20 points, down to 11 points for a #10 position. (So if a restaurant gets picked in two lists as #10, that’s better than getting picked by only one judge as #1.) We tally all that and we get the Top 30 list. We always ignore any and all votes cast for venues that panelists are involved with.
Is your list of panelists public?
No. We don’t particularly want them getting courted by award-savvy PRs.
Do advertisers get preferential treatment?
Beyond the fact that they’re included in the shortlist, no. The panelists vote on the Official Selection and the Top 30 and we keep only the top ranked places.
How do I get my restaurant into Top Tables Official Selection?
Number one: make delicious food using the very best produce and serve it at an appropriate price point amid an exceptional setting. Number two: buzz—being talked about counts a lot when it comes to awards.
How do I get my restaurant into Top Tables Top 10?
If you look at the Top 10, or even the Top 30, it’s all people who are making an effort to be unique: who go to greater lengths for their produce, who reinvent something, who dig deeper into the roots of a cuisine. Go through the list and every restaurant ticks at least one of those boxes. There are not many places in the top of the guide who just do good food with good service.
Think you’ve got what it takes to be on the panel? Have suggestions on how we can improve?
*Anonymous reviews are one part of BK’s restaurant coverage. For our full review process, read here.