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The Washington, DC RAMMY Awards are a coveted accolade across the Metropolitan Washington region due to prestige, the long history of the awards, and the sound policies and procedures with which they are administered.

Governance, Structure, & Operations

The RAMMY Awards consists of five independent recognition programs with different judging/selection processes: Restaurant Awards, Public Voting Restaurant Awards, Employee of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards, RAMW Executive Committee Awards, and Regional Food and Beverage Producer of the Year.  These awards remain subject to change year-to-year.

Restaurant Awards include:

  • Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year

  • Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year

  • Casual Restaurant of the Year

  • New Restaurant

  • Chef of the Year

  • Rising Culinary Star of the Year

  • Pastry Chef of the Year

  • Wine Program of the Year

  • Cocktail Program of the Year

  • Beer Program of the Year

  • Service Program of the Year

  • Restaurateur of the Year

The Public Voting Restaurant Awards include:

  • Favorite Gathering Place of the Year

  • Upscale Brunch of the Year

  • Casual Brunch of the Year

  • Favorite Fast Bites of the Year

The Employee and Manager Awards include:

  • Employee of the Year

  • Manager of the Year

RAMW Board of Directors Awards include:
These awards are selected by the RAMW Executive Committee and/or the Board of Directors.

  • The Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award

  • The Honorary Milestone Award

  • The Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year Award

The Regional Food and Beverage Producer Award nominees and winners are voted on via an electronic voting system by the RAMW restaurant membership.


Who is eligible?
Any RAMW member, in good standing, who meets all of the requirements of the category is eligible for nomination. The Honorary Milestone Award and the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award are the only RAMMY Awards that are open to non-members, while the Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year Award is only for allied members.

Nomination Submissions
Nominations are submitted online only through the nominations website by RAMW members,  vendors and suppliers, restaurant owners, operators, staff, and the general public. The RAMMY Awards Judges Panel may also submit nominations, if restaurants they would like to be considered are not already entered by other sources. Submissions are reviewed by RAMW for eligibility and those submissions that are deemed eligible are approved for judging.

The nominations website is a secure platform hosted by Open Water, the same trusted online awards management program utilized by the James Beard Foundation Awards, The Peabody Awards, ASAE, Ad Age, The Smithsonian, Crains, and more. In 2018, RAMW received over 1,300 collective nominations.

Fees: There is no fee to submit.

Submissions are open for a period of 6-7 weeks between November and January each year. The call for nominations is sent out to the RAMW membership and general public electronically.

The Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award is chosen by the RAMW Executive Committee and does not have an online nominations process. The Honorary Milestone Award and the Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year Award nominees and winners are also chosen by the RAMW Executive Committee, but they are included in the general online nominations process.

Finalists are announced at the RAMMYS Nominations Announcement event (open to membership, media, and sponsors by invitation only).

With the exception of the Duke Zeibert Award and the Honorary Milestone Award which are announced in advance of the RAMMY Awards, the winners in all other categories are announced at the RAMMY Awards Gala, typically held in June each year. The results are kept confidential by the management staff of RAMW and the participating judges, until the Awards presentation ceremony.

The Accounting Firm of Thompson Greenspon handles ballot tabulation for any categories in which a numeric vote is considered.


The Restaurant Awards Judges Panel (referred to as “The Panel”) of The RAMMY Awards is responsible for considering and choosing the nominees in both the Restaurant Awards (12 awards) and the Public Voting Restaurant Awards (four awards).


Eligible judges are invited members of the Washington, DC and/or Mid-Atlantic region media community in print journalism, radio, broadcast television, and digital media, who demonstrate a dedicated and knowledgeable background in the region’s restaurants and food service industry.

The Panel is responsible for considering and choosing the winners for only the Restaurant Awards (12 awards).

The Panel, administered by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), is invited by the RAMW President and CEO. The Panel shall include no fewer than 7 and a maximum of 13 individuals.  

The judges’ term of service runs between 8-10 months depending on the date of the scheduled RAMMY Awards Gala event, beginning in December each year.

Term End Date: One month following the date of the RAMMY Awards Gala.

Expectations // It is expected that participating judges have and maintain expertise on dining trends, food innovations, food service business operations, front of house service, and culinary excellence. Eligible judges are well-versed on past, present, and upcoming restaurant industry chefs, restaurateurs, mixologists, sommeliers, projects and businesses. Eligible judges have demonstrated intimate understanding of the culinary scope of the Washington, DC region, and/or of Northern Virginia, and/or of the Maryland suburbs surrounding Washington, DC. It is expected that judges dine out at restaurants across the region with frequent vigor and repetition and increase this dining out during the nominations and judging process.

Confidentiality // The Panel members are required to, per agreement, pledge their confidentiality during and after their service, and they are anonymous to the public.

Ethical Responsibility // The Panel members are expected to read, acknowledge, and sign the Ethical Conduct Agreement and conduct themselves with the highest of standards as is expected of the RAMW staff and Board of Directors. 

Payment // The Panel members participate in The RAMMY Awards Restaurant Awards Judges Panel as unpaid, invited volunteers.

Dining Reimbursement // Panel members have a modest dining stipend per judge to spend on restaurant dining during the nominations and winner selection process.

When considering the nominations, the Panel first reviews the online submissions and determines if they would like to collectively add any additional and eligible submissions to the list. The Panel then takes part in an elimination process to narrow the larger list down to between 20-30 contenders in each category.

The restaurants, businesses, and/or individuals are evaluated based on the eligibility criteria listed in each description on the official “Category Descriptions” guidelines.

Submissions are evaluated based on various points per type of category, including:

Restaurant Categories

  • Service

  • Food (savory and sweet)

  • Ambiance

  • Beverage program

  • Overall dining experience

Individual Chef Categories (Chef of the Year, Rising Culinary Star, Pastry Chef):

  • Exemplary culinary talent

  • Innovative menu

  • Contributes to a positive work environment and/or facilitates a positive work environment; prioritizes professional workplace culture

  • Public acclaim

Employee of the Year

  • Serves as a model employee and team player

  • Displays outstanding service, knowledge, and excellent work ethic

  • Contributes to a positive work environment

Manager of the Year

  • Displays outstanding service and excellent work ethic

  • Demonstrates positive qualities as a leader

  • Serves as an ambassador of the restaurant’s vision, mission, and definition of success

  • Facilitates a positive work environment and prioritizes professional workplace culture


  • Influential as a business leader in the regional dining scene

  • Demonstrates innovation in the region’s evolving dining scene

  • Demonstrates dedication to healthy business growth and entrepreneurship

  • Establishments show consistency in restaurant quality, service, experience across the board

  • Demonstrates positive qualities as a leader

  • Invests in staff and management to enhance professional development and career advancement of those working in the organization

  • Facilitates a positive work environment and prioritizes professional workplace culture

  • Advocates for diversity and inclusion as important hiring standards

  • Businesses and leadership demonstrate a vested interest in the communities and neighborhoods where the businesses are located

Beverage Categories

  • Knowledgeable staff

  • Diversity of menu

  • Quality of products

  • Diversity of price points

  • Creativity of cocktails

  • Presentation of cocktails


  • Attentiveness of staff

  • Friendliness

  • Knowledgeable about food, beverage, establishment

  • Quality of service

  • Overall impression of staff

The judging criteria for choosing the winners is the same as the criteria for choosing finalists. The Winners are announced live at The RAMMYS Gala event.

Public Voting Restaurant Awards

The Panel chooses the finalists in the Public Voting Restaurant categories using the same process and criteria as other categories. The winners in each of the four categories are chosen by popular vote through an online voting system hosted by a RAMMYS media partner NBC4 Washington. NBC4 promotes the online voting and collects the online votes which are then tallied and verified by the auditing firm at Thompson Greenspon. The voting rules and regulations are hosted online at NBC4.

Employee and Manager Awards

The Employee of the Year and Manager of the Year categories require extensive essay-based answers to questions during the nominations submission process. There is a second panel (Employee/Manager Panel) of three appointed judges made up of food service industry professionals and educators who evaluate the Employee and Manger submissions. The Employee/Manager Panel determines the 5 finalists in each of the two categories based on the essay questions submitted. To determine the winners, the Employee/Manager Panel holds in-person interviews in April. The Employee/Manager Panel judges are invited by RAMW, are unpaid, and participate on a volunteer basis. 

Executive Committee Honors

The Executive Committee honors are three categories in which the individuals being honored are chosen solely by the RAMW Executive Committee of the Board of Directors.

  •  Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year
    The award is presented to an allied member who best exemplifies commitment to and support of RAMW. This award recipient is determined by the Executive Committee of RAMW.

  • Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award
    The Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award is given for dedication and leadership that has helped transform Washington’s restaurant scene into today’s vibrant restaurant industry. This award recipient is determined by the Executive Committee of RAMW.

  • Milestone Award
    Honoring longstanding local restaurants and RAMW members who have been in business for at least 25 years, the Honorary Milestone Award is bestowed onto only the Washington region’s most influential or beloved dining institutions that are celebrating milestone anniversaries. This honor is awarded by the RAMW Executive Committee and is only awarded in years when there is a noteworthy milestone. 

Reconsideration and Revocation of Nominations and/or Awards

RAMW and The RAMMY Awards Gala reserves the right to reconsider and/or revoke any awards should circumstances or information arise that the Panel was not aware of at the time of judging and/or awarding, or based on any situations that becomes known after the judging commenced.

The judges panel has policies and procedures to follow in these circumstances which take into consideration the eligibility requirements, judging criteria, ethical conduct and the totality of factual information the panel has access to about the candidates being considered or reconsidered.