Customers at Cafe Carlo are satisfied — so satisfied, in fact, that their positive feedback has helped push the local Italian eatery into a list of the Top 100 Restaurants in Canada.
On Tuesday, OpenTable, an online dining reservation service, published its list of the top restaurants in the country based on user reviews collected over the last year.
Cafe Carlo owner Joel Boulet was surprised by the news and chalks the accolade up to high-quality service.
"I do think we give (diners) a pretty good experience overall; we try to be as attentive as possible," he says. "That part I’m not surprised about because I fully believe in the people that I’ve been working with over the last many, many years… so it’s a great credit to them more than anything."
Boulet has worked at the Corydon Village restaurant for 30 years, first as a server and later as an owner. During his tenure, the rise of online, diner-submitted reviews has changed the landscape considerably. While public forums can provide important feedback, they also create a lot of stress and anxiety for staff.
"A negative review can be a bit hard to take," he says. "But even consistently good reviews cause a lot of anxiety, because once you set the bar somewhere, it’s really hard to maintain that."
Where other platforms allow anyone and everyone to comment, Boulet has more faith in the reviews on OpenTable because only verified customers are given the opportunity to weigh in. At press time, Cafe Carlo had more than 1,800 reviews on the website and an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of five.
The restaurant is the only Manitoba establishment featured in this year’s Top 100 list. Since reopening following public health restrictions, Cafe Carlo has been as busy as ever. While Boulet is happy for the recognition, he’s focused on keeping staff and customers satisfied.
"It’s always nice to hear nice things and I’m sure it will put a smile on everyone’s faces and remind (staff) that what they’re doing has value," he says. "And hopefully we can stay busy right through the winter months, keep doing what we’re doing and look for ways to improve."
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.