It’s hard to believe, but Berks County Eats is almost six years old. What began as a college project turned into a real website in January 2014 when we reviewed the TomCat Cafe. That kicked off the weekly reviews – 280 and counting.
For the first five-and-a-half years, BerksCountyEats.com remained relatively unchanged. We had a simple blogroll where all the new posts showed up on the homepage, in order.
That’s all it had to be, at first. If I’m being honest, Berks County Eats outgrew that design a couple years ago, but I was too lazy to redesign the site. Building and maintaining websites has been a big part of my day job for years so rebuilding my own site after work was the last thing I wanted to do.
I finally resolved to make the change this summer and on Labor Day weekend, I launched the new BerksCountyEats.com. Since then, I’ve been working to fine-tune it into the website of my dreams – or as close to it as I can manage. I’m proud of the end result, which has taken Berks County Eats and turned it from a blog into a real resource.
This was the most necessary addition: an organized repository of all blog posts. You can find previous reviews based on cuisine (Italian, Latin American) or by restaurant type (Drive-Ins, Finer Dining). There is also a search bar that makes it easy to find a review by keyword or restaurant name. Visit the Blog Archive
I have dreamed for years of creating a directory of Berks County restaurants. Before launching the new website, it existed only as a very rough Excel spreadsheet where I would add checkboxes next to the restaurants I had visited. Now, it’s an integral part of BerksCountyEats.com.
With the goal of being the ultimate dining resource for Berks County, I have loaded in more than 530 restaurants into the directory. This is only the locally owned, non-national chains (sorry McDonald’s and Red Lobster). I have done my best to add filters based on cuisine and/or restaurant type while also breaking the county down into regions for easier navigation.
The directory is not meant to be an endorsement of any restaurant, but it’s a good place to start. Every listing is linked to the restaurant’s website and social media, when available, and includes their address and phone number. For restaurants we have visited, it also includes our ratings for the food, service and ambiance, as well as photos taken during our visit.
The goal is to keep the information as up-to-date and accurate as possible, but to do that, I’m going to need help from the Berks County Eats community. First, I know there are restaurants out there that are missing (and probably a few listed that have closed). So please, let us know of any restaurants that need to be added or removed.
Going forward, if a new restaurant opens near you – or you know one is on the way – let me know. If a place closes, shoot me an email or send me a message on Facebook. If I don’t see/know about it, I can’t update it. And while I try to be on top of all the news, not everything finds its way into my news feed. Visit the Directory
Early in the life of Berks County Eats, I was putting out weekly Food News posts that covered openings, closings and any other news items that I felt warranted mention. I had to stop that several years ago because a) Facebook changed its algorithm and the news wasn’t showing up in my feed anymore and b) it was clogging up an already crowded feed on the BerksCountyEats.com homepage.
As I was building out the new site, I realized that I needed to streamline things so I created a news page with links to three new pages: Now Open, Coming Soon and Recently Closed restaurants. These pages are updated as often as needed and include all of the restaurants I have information on.
While I will continue to share updates on Facebook whenever possible, this is the place to find all the latest news. Again, if you hear about an opening or closing, drop us a line so we can keep these pages as robust and accurate as possible. Visit the Food News Page
Calendar of Events
This was also something that was very important to me as I started rebuilding the site. Berks County is rich, not only in its diversity of restaurants, but in its diverse events. Since starting Berks County Eats, I have been to countless festivals and events from Womelsdorf in the west to Boyertown in the east and all points in between. With the calendar, we can now put a stronger focus on these events and promote them as they get closer.
At this point, I’ve only added major events – food truck fairs, apple festivals, Oktoberfest, etc. That could evolve moving forward – it all depends on what you want to know about moving forward. Do we stick to fairs and festivals? Do they need to be food-themed or just have good food (those Oley Fair French fries…)? If a restaurant is hosting an event, should that be included? If so, what constitutes an event worthy of posting?
This is one section of the site that will continue to evolve. View Calendar of Events
No, I’m Still Not Getting Paid for Reviews
Reviews are not for sale. Everything I write is an honest assessment about the restaurants I’m visiting. I do my best to accentuate the positives, not because restaurants are paying me, but because the rest of the world is writing 1-star reviews on Yelp.
That said, advertisements may become a bigger part of the site moving forward. If you saw ads on the old version of the site, they were placed by WordPress.com. I recently upgraded my hosting plan, which removes the ads but also costs me more money (did I mention I’m not getting paid for reviews?).
I am going to be actively seeking advertisers for the website. That may include restaurants, but I’m hoping the wider Berks County business community sees the value in a website that is hyper-targeted to their customers.
When it comes to future advertisements, I will make two promises: First, the ads will not be obnoxiously placed in the middle of articles (that’s just rude). Second, reviews are still not for sale.
In Other News…
The last year has been a professional challenge, but a personal blessing. In August 2018, I made a career decision that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have. I was very stressed and it took a toll on me in many ways. Remember Food Blogger vs. Fat? I lost 30 pounds in 2017 and have regained 20 since then – mostly stress-eating my way through work.
In May of this year, I switched jobs again, this time for the better. I’m closer to home, working better hours and feel like I am back in a good place. I’m also restarting my diet to get my blood pressure back under control; I’m just not going to be posting about it every single week (if at all). And it’s not going to affect my reviews – heck, I’ve been celebrating National Pizza Month every week in October. I’m just making better decisions in the 20 meals a week that I’m not blogging about.
On a personal note, parenthood is amazing. My son turns two years old in November and watching him grow has been the most rewarding experience of my life. He is a true blessing to Julie and I, and I am ever thankful to be able to call him my son.
The reason I have been able to re-devote my time to Berks County Eats is because I am in such a good place right now, personally and professionally. I am so happy to sit down at the keyboard every week and write about food. I love doing this, and I love sharing this adventure with all of you.
I hope you enjoy the changes – upgrades, I believe – to Berks County Eats. And I’m not done yet. I am hoping to have another exciting announcement for you before the end of the year.
Until then, there’s only one question left: where should I eat next?
Your feedback is always welcomed! Email Zach at email@example.com