You are making plans to go out for dinner with a group of friends but aren’t sure where to go. So. Many. Choices. How to choose, how to choose?! If you live in Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Phoenix, you tune in to Public Television’s Emmy Award winning show, Check, Please.
Or, if you are like me, you have a long list of must visit places that you have been jotting down as you watch each episode of Check, Please. This entertaining program, now in its 16th season in Chicago, showcases restaurant reviews made by a panel of three guests per show. Created by David Manilow, the premise of the show is to bring a diverse group of people together where each person picks their favorite restaurant that they want them to dine at in anticipation of their on-air discussion. During the show, each guest shares their experience of having dined at the 3 chosen restaurants with the panel.
With guests coming from all neighborhoods (Chicago is known for our “neighborhood feel” after all), food preferences, lifestyles, backgrounds and demographics, restaurant recommendations are quite diverse. After the meal, the three diners meet with host, Catherine De Orio, who moderates the panel to talk about the restaurant experience. What they liked, didn’t like, food, service, who the menu is geared for, ambiance, price, and ultimately, would they go back. This is the reason to watch the show. Opinions. Feedback. All in a friendly manner. With a little attitude occasionally. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at the different episodes here.
(Fig and Olive)
As you can imagine, everyone has an opinion. What is one diner’s favorite-ever dish may not be seen quite the same way by another diner. But, the concept of the program is to share the menu, dish and diner’s thoughts so that viewers can determine, after listening to all panelists’ comments, if the restaurant is worth a visit. It’s a great idea, really. You are getting real, live and face to face sharing of a diner’s experience. There is no hiding behind a computer posting to review websites.
To make sure that the panelists experience in the restaurant is anonymous, all photographs and videos of chef conversations are done after the diners have eaten there. Then, there is no advance warning that the restaurant will be on the show. What viewers also benefit from is seeing the restaurant in motion. Besides having the opportunity to “meet” the chef, they are able to get a feel for the ambience of the space, patrons’ attire, noise level and pace of the restaurant. For example, how loud is the restaurant if your intent is to go for a business lunch meeting.
Some additional behind the scenes thoughts about the creation, strategy and learnings from the show.
- By having three new diners each month versus having one person as a reviewer who goes restaurant to restaurant, there is no opportunity for the restaurant to know who is actually sharing feedback about their experience. Truly honest reviews as a result.
- New shows air October through March.
- Restaurants feel validated as they get to hear firsthand what their guests’ experiences were in their space.
- Guests are more comfortable going to a restaurant because they feel like they “know” it after listening to the panelists and seeing the video and chef conversation.
- Guests are more educated on food and cocktail programs. Higher expectations as a result.
- Guests know the chef and his/her professional history.
- Millennials spending more disposable income for meals over owning cars and homes.
- Going global. Expansion of show from food and travel perspective to other countries. Ie. Austria
- Check, Please Clubs have formed.
So, now, do you want to be on Check, Please? You are not alone. Sitting down at the Check, Please table is in big demand. The show wants to offer viewers a diverse group of people and opinions. There is a vetting process to get on the show as you can imagine. They need to know you can share your opinion even if it is contrary to the other diners’ feedback. For more information on how to apply to be on the show, visit here.
Check, Please has proven itself to be a fascinating way for viewers to explore their own city. By bringing diners together to share their thoughts on camera, locals (and visitors) are able to learn about areas of town, restaurants, chefs and the history of dishes from the comfort of their own homes. This ability to trust the reviews because we are hearing it firsthand from the diners themselves, gives a greater vote of confidence to what our experience might be should we go to the restaurant. By curating the panelists’ opinions, Check Please is exposing viewers to places that they may not have been aware of before. That’s a win win for the restaurant and the diner.
Check your local listings for when the show airs in your area. And don’t forget to have a pen and paper handy for that list. Thanks, Check, Please, for the entertaining way to introduce viewers to the culinary happenings in their area.