The questions we always get…

By Carmen Schmidt |

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Check, Please! is a pretty popular show on WTTW, so when people hear that I work on the show, I get a lot of questions. Viewers send e-mails with questions, comments, and even some suggestions. Since we’re on a break until January 2012, I thought it might be a great time to answer some of these frequently asked questions.

How do people get on the show?
This is the most frequently asked question I’ve heard or read. We have 36 guest reviewers on Check, Please! each season which are selected in early spring. If you are interested in becoming one of our “real-people” reviewers, just click on “Be On Show” and complete the application. We look for detailed and “flavored” responses and for restaurant picks that have not been featured on the show. To be sure your restaurant has not already been reviewed, you can search for your pick on this site. Prospective reviewers must be available to tape the discussion segments of the program at the WTTW studios in the middle of a week day, during the summer months. And, of course, they must be willing to visit two other restaurants recommended for the episode. Each season, applications are considered by our Executive Producer and one of the Associate Producers, and calls are made to potential reviewers as we organize the next season’s episodes. As you’ve seen on the show, we try to select a variety of people and restaurant types, and put them together for each episode.

Who selects the restaurants you review?
The restaurants are recommended by our selected “real-people” reviewers, not by the staff of Check, Please! We get lots of letters from individuals recommending restaurants or asking why we haven’t covered a restaurant. The answer is simple: if we haven’t received an application from an interested reviewer for that restaurant, or we haven’t selected the person recommending that restaurant for the show, then it won’t be reviewed on Check, Please!

How many restaurants have you covered and will you run out? By the end of this season, we will have reviewed 396 restaurants. You can watch reviews for almost all of them on this website. And no, we will not run out of restaurants to cover! We invite reviewers to tell us about restaurants throughout the Chicago area, which includes the suburbs and just over the border of Indiana. There is no shortage of restaurants to consider. Not to mention, new restaurants are opening all the time.

What happens when a reviewed restaurant closes?
The restaurant business can be difficult so restaurants closings are not unusual. Restaurateurs often close one eatery, only to re-open another with a completely different chef, menu, atmosphere, or address. As soon as we know of restaurant closings, we update the website and pull the episode in which it was featured from our broadcast replay lineup. Sometimes, our viewers are the ones you let us know about restaurant closures – thanks for your updates!

Does Check, Please! impact business for restaurants?

Most if not all of the restaurants featured are overwhelmed by the business that follows a review on Check, Please! “Hidden gems” are revealed to thousands of viewers who look forward to new culinary experiences. In fact, the bump in diners and business continues each time an episode featuring that restaurant airs! So if you like a restaurant you see on the show, get your reservations in early!

Do the restaurants know the reviewers are coming?
No. When our reviewers visit the restaurants, the restaurants do not know that they are visiting or reviewing it for Check, Please! We want our reviewers to have the same experience any person would have visiting the restaurant. After our reviewers dine at the restaurant to form their opinion and review, they come to our studios to tape the discussion part of the show with the other two reviewers. It's only after we’ve heard the reviewers comments that we send a producer and camera crew out to the restaurants for a few hours to videotape exterior shots of the restaurant, the décor and atmosphere, activity in the kitchen, interviews with the chef and staff, and the dishes the reviewers mentioned in the studio discussion.

Well, that’s all for now! I hope you found an answer to one of your Check, Please! questions here. If not, write in and let us know what’s on your mind!

Happy holiday eating!

Carmen M. Schmidt
Associate Producer, Check, Please!
WTTW