How Restaurant Awards Affect Revenue

Nestled partial pieces of a circle, in different shades of orange and cream, against an orange background, with a horizontal row of dots from the center of the frame to the leftmost edge.

For software and service providers who work with restaurants, external signals of growth and success, like awards and recognition, may be a route to finding new customers.

In the restaurant world, this might look like being named to a “best of” list — an honor that brings the benefits of exposure. We wanted to know: how does that exposure affect a restaurant’s performance? And is it a reliable signal of a restaurant’s success?

To find out, we explored card transaction data for restaurants that made The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurant List.

Analyzing 2021 Listmakers

We analyzed a sample of 20 of the restaurants from The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurants List (published October 21, 2021) to see what, if any, revenue impact came after appearing on the list.

We found that the range of revenue changes across the sample was broad, and roughly two-thirds of listmakers in our sample saw 2021 revenue growth compared to the same period in 2019.

Pie chart showing that 65% of restaurants in our sample grew and 35% declined after making the 2021 NYT Restaurants List

When we compared the group of listmakers’ revenue changes from Q3 to Q4 2021 to the same period in 2019, we found that 65% of restaurants grew after making the list and 35% declined.

Dot chart showing distribution of revenue changes for the 20 sample restaurants

Across the sample, revenue changes ranged from 65.97 percentage points on the upside to -850.92 on the downside.

Next we looked closer at a few establishments that saw positive impacts.

Bar chart comparing indexed revenues at Hannibal's Soul Kitchen for second half of 2019 and second half of 2021

This Charleston-based soul food restaurant saw a revenue spike the month the list was published. Monthly card revenues in the second half of 2021 increased nearly 60% over the same months in 2019.

Bar chart comparing indexed revenues at Frasca for second half of 2019 and second half of 2021

For this northeastern Italian cuisine spot in Colorado, the change in their Q3/Q4 2021 revenue was over seven percentage points higher than the same period 2019.

The Takeaway

Our takeaway: a restaurant’s revenue trends after an award or recognition don’t follow a set pattern – especially in today’s post-pandemic environment.

So while “best of” lists are still a great way to find the best cuisine in a new city, they may not be your most valuable signal when it comes to finding and serving restaurants as small business customers.

A clearer signal? A restaurant's historic card revenue trends. As of publication date, Enigma’s card revenue data on restaurants includes more than 1.4 million U.S. locations that've shown card revenue activity in the past year. Our data is updated monthly, built from swipes of over 700 million anonymized cards, and goes back to 2017.

For more on “best of” lists, restaurants, and exploring revenue impact, watch the insights video.

Ready to explore the data yourself? Try a sample of our U.S. restaurants data on Snowflake.


We analyzed a sample of 20 geographically diverse restaurants from The New York Times’ 2021 Restaurants List, which was published in October 2021.

We compared sample listmakers’ monthly card revenues from Q3 to Q4 2019 to the same period in 2021. We omitted 2020 data because of pandemic impacts.

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