On Feb. 13 We Lead announced that "Iowa's Best Bite Competition" was coming to West Liberty, three weeks later the response from inside and outside the community is nearly overwhelming.
"Part of this was to showcase West Liberty, and now we're getting national attention," said We Lead Director Shannon McNaul.
"We were picked up by the Associated Press, we're in the Des Moines Register, we've hit Miami, we've hit Arizona and we've hit the Twin Cities," she added. "We are gaining people who are following the community."
The Iowa Best Bite Competition invites prospective restaurant owners to compete in a cook-off where the winner will not only gain access to the Century Grille Building for their business, but over $120,000 worth of startup costs and sustainability.
So far We Lead has received 13 inquiries about entering the competition, and has shown the Century Grille Building to nine of those possible competitors.
She has received a lot of positive responses concerning the building. A lot of it has been surprise by the size of the building and the kitchen inside of it.
"It's a lot of fun to watch the faces of people when they go in, you can see their eyes light up and the wheels turning," said McNaul.
The online portion is also booming. The Facebook page for Iowa's Best Bite in West Liberty has gathered nearly 600 likes since the original announcement.
No entries for the contest have been officially chosen. Rather, We Lead is using this time to not only promote interest in the competition but in the community.
"People are still fact gathering," said McNaul. "Which is what we want them to do. They're learning about the community, they're asking questions. We have a packet of information we offer them."
As for the community response, the opportunity to be a judge on the citizens panel has resonated with over 20 citizens. The list to be chosen grows every day.
In the end We Lead will choose around 15 community members for the panel. Not only will they taste the competitors’ food, but they will work together to rank the possible restaurants and give direct feedback to an executive panel.
"We [executive panel] will listen to everything they have to say, they're going to judge restaurants on performance, on presentation, and on taste," said McNaul, "The panel will also be able to ask the competitors questions."
In order to help entries for the competition We Lead is fostering a discussion on the Iowa's Best Bite Facebook for West Liberty. Each week it poses a question that entices community feedback.
"The question this week was, 'Think about the most memorable restaurant experience you've ever had, what made it so memorable?'" said McNaul. "We've had a lot of people comment on what they want.
Also, to aid those looking for a partner in the competition a 'Need a Partner?' option has been added to the 'How to Enter' tab on the website. On it anyone interested in competing, but may be weak on the business or cooking side, can find help.
According to McNaul six people have already signed up for the list and are currently looking for partners.
We Lead is currently aiming to hold finals for the competition in July. At the moment it's accepting applications and questions.
To get involved or get more info contact the We Lead office at 319-627-4045 or visit the website and Facebook page.
Best Bite response growsJacob Lane · Wednesday, March 5, 2014