Lethbridge consumers have once again chosen the cream of the crop.
The results have been tabulated in the annual Best of the Best survey conducted by the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper, with voters determining their favourites in more than 120 categories.
This year the survey was divided into 10 main categories — Automotive, Dining, Electronics, Health, Home Decor, Pets, Retail, Services, Sports and Things to Do — with a number of sub-categories within those.
A revamped website enabled residents to better navigate the categories in voting for businesses and services they feel are Lethbridge’s Best of the Best. The electronic voting system, which was updated to provide enhanced safeguards against attempts to manipulate the results, received more than 100,000 votes again this year.
As has been the case previously, the results, which feature the top three finishers in each category, showcase a broad cross-section of local businesses and services, with a mix of old and new as well as a blend of large chains and small independent businesses.
The Best of the Best survey has been conducted since the mid-1990s and has grown tremedously from the initial year when organizers hand-counted the roughly 400 hand-written ballots featuring about 20 categories.
“It’s just amazing,” Brian Hancock, director of sales for the Sun Times/Shopper, says of the survey’s growth. “We run it but the people of Lethbridge have taken ownership of it. We just steer the boat. They do the rowing.”
Readers make suggestions for additional categories and it’s through that involvement that the number of categories has expanded throughout the years. Suggestions for new categories are received during December, with voting taking place throughout January. The survey now includes a number of general just-for-fun categories such as Best Park, Best Place to Take the Kids, and Best Local Concert of 2017.
Some of the business categories have been divided into more specialized categories. For example, in the Restaurant category, voters can now choose Best East Indian Cuisine, Best Mexican Cuisine, Best Japanese Cuisine, Best Vietnamese Food, Best Fish and Chips, Best Pizza, Best Soup, Best Dessert and Best Place to Eat When Someone Else is Buying, to name just a few.
Over the many years the survey has operated, it has come to be prized by local businesses as a validation from the public that they’re doing something right, with many firms proudly displaying their Best of the Best plaques.
“It’s a confirmation that what you’re doing is well thought of by your customers and others in the community,” Bruce Galts, president of Galko Homes, said in 2016 after his company won in the Best Home Builder category. “It’s great feedback.”