How It Works

Back for its sixth year, Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year is an annual national café competition aimed at finding the best and most loved café’s across the country. We’ve put together an expert team of judges headed up by industry great Kerry Tyack. The judges will be using their expertise and local café knowledge to help seek out the top cafes in the country.


Competition Categories

This year you can enter your café into one of the following categories:

Best Metro/CBD
For cafés located in cities and business districts.

Best Suburban
For cafés serving local communities or suburbs.

Best Regional Town (New)
For cafés located within regional New Zealand towns.

Best Rural
For cafés set within small New Zealand towns and rural locations.

Not sure which category you should be entering, get in touch

Got that bit extra?

This year, for the first time, we have two special opt in awards for those who think they offer the industry that bit extra.

For each of these awards, a shortlist of six (one from each region) will be selected based on the entries for each below award. The six finalists will be visited or interviewed by phone and to determine the ultimate winner.

The Unilever Food Solutions Award for Innovation and Sustainability

  • Business/commercial innovation
  • Marketing innovation
  • Food/menu development
  • Interior design/construction
  • Sustainable Development

Entrants are asked to provide a written explanation of what their innovation is and how it has positively impacted on their businesses. Judges for this award will be a single representative from Unilever Food Solutions.

The JetPlane Indie Classic Kiwi Award

  • Easily identifiable Kiwi character
  • Emphasis on traditional, counter food prepared onsite and incorporating local ingredients
  • Link to family recipes
  • Presents a display of Kiwi ingenuity

Entrants are asked to provide a written explanation of what makes them a Classic Kiwi Café and how it has positively impacted on their businesses. Judges for this award will be a single representative from JetPlane Indie.

To enter either of these awards, you just need to tick the “I would like to be considered for The Unilever Award for Innovation or JetPlane Indie Classic Kiwi Award” and fill out the relative box in your registration form.

Prizes up for grabs

We are excited about our prizes this year – and hope you will be too!

Supreme winner
This year our supreme winner will receive:
– The title of Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year 2018
– An editorial feature in Dish magazine
– National PR coverage
– A trip for two to Melbourne, so the winners can relax and unwind after the competition and experience what some of the top establishments across the ditch are doing
– A 2-year subscription to Dish magazine.

National category winners
Each of the national category winners, and the national People’s Choice winner will receive the following;
– $250 cash prize
– A certificate and window stickers proclaiming their success
– Press coverage of your category win
– Regional finalist and winning cafés will all feature on the Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year website as our top cafes of New Zealand for 2018
– A 1-year subscription to Dish magazine.

Regional category winners, finalists and People’s choice regional winners
– A certificate and window stickers proclaiming their success
– Bragging rights that your café is one of the top in the country
– Regional finalist and winning cafes will all feature on the Meadow fresh NZ Café of the Year website as our top cafes of New Zealand for 2018.

Key competition dates

There are a number of dates to keep in mind for the competition, here’s what you need to know:
14th August – Registration and nominations open
29th September – Registrations and nominations closes
2nd October – People’s Choice voting opens
27th October – People’s Choice voting closes
November – Judges’ visits commence
December – Regional winners and People’s choice regional winners announced
February – Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year 2018 supreme winner and national category winners announced.

Competition regions

The competition is divided into six competition regions

  • Auckland – Wellsford to Franklin
  • Upper North Island – Northland (North of Wellsford), Waikato, Bay of Plenty,
  • Lower North Island – Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Manawatu-Wanganui
  • Wellington – Wairarapa, Kapiti
  • Upper South Island –  North of and including Temuka, Geraldine and Fox Glacier
  • Lower South Island – South of and including Timaru, Tekapo and Karangarua

Not sure where your café fits in, check out our competition region map.

Judging panel

Judging, tasting and deliberating will be conducted by an experienced judging team headed by well-known NZ food judge Kerry Tyack.

Kerry is an independent writer, commentator and educator in the New Zealand food and drinks industry. He is head judge of many food industry events including the National Restaurant Association Restaurant of the Year, the Cuisine NZ Good Food Guide, Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge, Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Award, The New Zealand Sausage Competition and Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year. He is an acknowledged expert on food and beverage pairing, a contributor to many publications and an award-winning author of books on beer and food.

People’s Choice

The People’s Choice is the public vote part of the competition that determines who are the most loved cafe’s in the country – as selected by the general public.

Not only is it a major honour to be the public favourite, public votes also help with your café ranking in the Meadow Fresh NZ Café of the Year judging. Our expert judging panel will be using the People’s Choice voting results as part of your overall score in judging phase 1.

People’s Choice regional winners will be announced in December and will be showcased on the Meadow Fresh NZ Cafe of the Year website.

The National People’s Choice winner is the cafe with the highest number of public votes in the country. They will also go into our list of national finalists to be visited with our finalists for contention as one the national category winners.

The Judging Process

This year the competition judging process is broken into 3 key phases



Phase 1: Shortlisting


  1. Our expert judging panel (EJP) will read through each entry and rate it based on the strength ‘what makes you special’ blurb on your entry form. The better the case you give us, the more likely you will be selected as a finalist. The judges will also take into consideration the cafe’s ranking in the People’s Choice vote as park of the cafe ranking
  2. 3-4 cafes per category, per region are selected as our shortlist by the EJP.
  3. The list of 3-4 cafes per category, per region are sent to local judges for their feedback and will be asked the following questions:
    – Do you know of this cafe?
    – Have you visited it?
    – Do you have any comments to make on the ‘what makes you special’ entry of the café?
    – Do you believe they fit the category entered?
    – Are there other cafés who you believe have a stronger case?

Determining Regional Finalists

From the shortlist the regional finalists will be selected by the EJP based on:
– The strength of the ‘what makes you special’ case from the cafe’s entry form
– Local expert feedback (as above)
– The ranking of the entrant using the People’s Choice voting score

There will be 2 finalists per category per region that are our finalists – a total of 48 cafes.

Phase 2: Judging Regional Finalists

The regional finalist cafés will all be visited and assessed by a team of two judges who will each order a hot drink and a meal on site. They will be assessed using the judging sheet (click here to see the judging sheet). All assessments are forwarded onto the EJP for the Phase 3 of judging.

Phase 3: Determining National Finalists

  1. The assessments are collated per region and category
  2. Results are recorded on a spreadsheet and the highest scoring entry in each category is the Regional Category Winner
  3. To this list of Regional Category Winners, the National People’s Choice winner is added
  4. All the cafes on this list are then visited again by a team of two judges from the EJP, one of these two will visit all the cafes
  5. The highest cafe from these assessments will be determined as the Meadow Fresh NZ Cafe of the Year.

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