The search is on to find the country's best cafe in the inaugural New Zealand Cafe of the Year competition.
With more than 3,000 cafes from Cape Reinga to Bluff, it's clear that New Zealand is a cafe-loving nation, and entries are now being accepted to determine which will be crowned the country's best.
Cafes can register online for the competition and cafe-goers will soon be able to vote for their favourite via text, online or Facebook. Fifteen finalists will be chosen on the basis of the most votes gained in each of the five regions: upper, central and lower North Island and upper and lower South Island (with three finalists being selected from each region).
The regional finalists are then judged by an expert panel comprising a highly decorated chef, the Restaurant Association and sponsors, Heinz Wattie's and Goodman Fielder.
Cafes are judged on appearance, atmosphere, staff, meals and overall experience. The competition calls for each cafe entering to have at least one dish on their menu incorporating both Wattie's Baked Beans and Kiwi Bacon. The more creative, the better!
The winning cafe will be announced in November and will receive media exposure through Food in a Minute worth over $100,000.
The competition will be run by communications and media organisation Image Centre Group, and supported by iconic NZ food brands Kiwi Bacon and Wattie's along with the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.
Image Centre Group Managing Director, David Atkins, says the Group has worked hard to develop an engaging awards platform that serves the needs of cafe owners and patrons as well as sponsors. "It's great to have such an active role in celebrating New Zealand's unique cafe culture and the brands that give it vibrancy," he says.
Marisa Bidois, Chief Executive of the Restaurant Association, says that the cafe culture is a big part of our lives.
"New Zealanders love the ritual of going to their local cafe," Marisa says. "Going out with family or friends for Sunday brunch is as part of being Kiwi as the Sunday Roast."
"No matter if you're in Putaruru or Penrose, Hokitika or the Hokianga, your cafe has a chance to win," she says.
Cafes must register their details at www.nzcafeoftheyear.co.nz by 18 October, after which their registration will be validated. All valid registrations will receive a pack with point-of-sale material to help bring the competition to life in the cafe.
Consumer voting opens on 1 September and closes on 28 October, when judging commences. The winning cafe will be announced in November.
Consumers who nominate a cafe go in a draw to win the grand prize of $5,000 to spend at their own favourite cafe, plus there's $1,000 for each of the 5 competition regions.