Ranking food

Do lists of the best food matter?

Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

A list claiming to celebrate the best in college foodservice, compiled by food website "The Daily Meal," was released last week. The list included the usual suspects at the top—Virginia Tech, Bowdoin and Washington University in St. Louis were the top three—but the list got me thinking about why media outlets are obsessed with lists like this and what it takes to create one.

We at FoodService Director are no stranger to lists (see our 20 Most Influential) though we are hesitant to rank our lists like "The Daily Meal." Who are we to say whom on our list is more influential than someone else on the list? And does the ranking part really even matter? I suppose to the people on the list the ranking might be something to boast about, especially in college foodservice since rivalries are a healthy part of college life. But what is really interesting about "The Daily Meal’s" list is how it did the rankings. Here is what it looked for, according to its website:

“To rank the schools that did make the cut, we graded them on a variety of criteria. Each could earn up to five points in each of the categories below.

  • Healthy Food: Meals that are fresh, made from scratch and cooked in small batches
  • Events: Themed dinners, picnics, cooking classes—anything to engage undergrads
  • Local: Programs that support the community with local purchases
  • Sustainable: Incorporating eco-friendly practices into the dining program
  • Accessibility and Service: How easy it is for students to connect with dining services and how well they are taken care of
  • The X Factor: Something that made our jaws drop”

Now the 51 colleges and universities that made "The Daily Meal’s" list all met this criteria. So how did they decide No. 52 (Dartmouth) from No. 51 (the University of New Hampshire). It seems to me that the ROI of the process of ranking these great programs just isn’t there. But perhaps I’m wrong. I’ll turn it over to you.

What do you think the value of these types of lists is? And where do you stand on just presenting a list of the best versus actually going through the trouble to rank them? Let us know in the comments or send an email to lramsey@cspnet.com.

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