Stittsville’s NeXT restaurant has cracked TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list of the top ten restaurants in Canada. Here’s an edited interview with owner and chef Michael Blackie on what the recognition means for his business.
“They [TripAdvisor] publishes the list annually and they choose top 10 in the country, and it’s based on some kind of algorithm to make that list. It’s mostly Quebec centric. There’s one from Whistler, you have us, and pretty much everyone else is Montreal and Quebec City. In the last five years Beckta has always gotten that title.
“In terms of google analytics and web site traffic, 45% of my traffic is a direct pull from TripAdvisor and it’s hugely important as a business. Fridays and Saturdays around 8pm I’ll go around and say hello to tables and chat with people and interact with people, and when I talk to guests one of the questions that always comes up is ‘how did you hear about us’, and 7/10 say it was from TripAdvisor.
“There’s an article coming out in a new magazine called Ottawa West. I did an article in there and it’s called “My Ottawa Perspective”. I touch on this whole social media thing. It’s changed so much for all of us, especially chefs. We used to rely on food critics two times per year to write a review for us. Now we have critics every day. No chef likes top 10 lists but it will certainly bring new people to the restaurant…
“I’m very proud that we’ve been able to establish this in Stittsville. It’s funny, you see all these restaurants in major cities, I think it’s cool that we have one in Stittsville. I bet a lot of people say ‘where the hell is Stittsville?!’
“I think a lot of chefs are saying “I’m tired of paying high rental, I’m going to move to the suburbs.” It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s what you do.
“I’m fascinated. When I opened NeXT five years ago I was only focused at looking downtown. Now when I look at the guest population, people come from Westboro, from the Glebe, from all over the town… and all over the countryside: Merrickville, Carleton Place, Arnprior, it’s from everywhere.
“If you stay steady and true it’s not going to matter where people come from. It’s about what are you putting on the plate to get people coming back again.”
(NeXT is located at 6400 Hazeldean Road, a bit west of Carp.)