The World’s 50 Best: Director William Drew on the pandemic and the future of the bar and restaurant lists
As the opener of a new decade, 2020 began with all the best intentions: from alcohol-free bars to new environmentally conscious restaurants. The thriving hospitality industry was hit like no other globally. Since its inception, the World’s 50 Best academy has helped create a network of chefs and mixologists internationally – first with their 50 Best Restaurants list and later with the 50 Best Bars. After the Connaught was revealed to be the year’s number one, we spoke with director of content William Drew about the future of these lists.
Was the voting system affected by travel restrictions this year?
The voting for World’s Best Bars actually took place over 15 months and that 15 months was from January 2019 to March 2020, the end of March 2020. That was the period which people were looking at when they were voting. So up until the pandemic. The votes were basically cast in July this year – there’s a lag between when votes are cast and when we announce this for logistical reasons – but when we asked people to vote for the best bars it was during that period, so essentially pre-pandemic, pre-lockdown. So the results are entirely based on those experiences beforehand. We looked to whether any of those bars are permanently closed. Thankfully, none of those 50 were permanently closed. Obviously many were temporarily closed. Most of them have reopened, or are temporarily reopened, but they plan to reopen again as soon as possible. So we believe it’s still very much a valid list of great places to put on your wishlist for when you can travel again or even for when you can go out again in your own city. Because it’s not just about travelling to destinations on the other side of the world, but very much about the greatest places that are just around the corner.
What kind of conversation are you having about next year considering what’s going on and the uncertainty about bars and restaurants being open for the time being?
I mean, in truth, we just got this year done. We don’t know about next year. It’s effectively, as anything in this situation, we’ll assess all of our different lists and different resources, you know [we have] 50 Best lists in different parts of the world as well as the [overall] 50 Best for bars and restaurants. So it’s an ever-evolving situation as it is for all of us. We’ll have to assess what the global situation is a few months after we usually publish a list and see whether we want to publish a list, whether we think it’s appropriate or valid. And whether we can create an event, whether that be a virtual event or physical event. So, I know that’s a bit of a vague answer, but it’s because we don’t really have the answer – none of us has the answer for when we’ll be able to travel again. We’ll consider all the options because we think the 50 Best has an important role to play in promoting the hospitality sector with bars and restaurants going forward in what are very challenging times. It’s important that we support and help the industry and all those who are working so hard. The precise way we do that is to keep them open.
Is the top position for bars destined to remain a contest between London and New York?
Well, in plain fact it has been thus far but I can’t imagine it will always be that. I think, I mean time will tell but, for me even just over the past five years or so of best bars, the spread and strength of different cities outside of those majors has increased. So of course, London and New York are still hugely important contenders for the cocktail industry, but we’ve seen a rise in Asia. We’ve seen a rise in Latin America. We hope to see a rise in other parts of the world as well. And although that hasn’t yet led to one of those bars becoming the number one, I’m sure it will do in time. Whether it’s next year or the year after or the year after that, I don’t know. But I think the mix is strong and it’s increasingly diverse, I would say.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor