Sometimes the oddest subjects will take off. Sometimes what readers find interesting is a complete surprise.

2011 was like that. We’ve had more than 17,000 visitors to the site this year, and what they chose to read and share was, without question, consistently interesting and occasionally unexpected. (Food trucks? Really?)

What have we learned? Well, that our readers like stories about real people and places, and prefer to learn from real-life examples. (Stories about specific restaurants are high on the list.) They’re interested in saving money and energy, and want ways to let customers know that they’re working on becoming greener. (Stories about energy efficient-appliances and green certification were popular.)

And, finally, they’re interested in interesting companies and people doing interesting things. (Articles about Lowfoot and Dyson got lots of traction.)

Curious about what our readers found interesting this year? Take a look at our top 10 posts of 2011.

  1. Food trucks. Who’d have thunk it? Both our initial articles about food trucks (“Mobile food trucks get rolling in Ontario” and “How to open a successful mobile food truck“) have consistently stayed on our list of top content since they were published in June. No wonder, since mobile food service was predicted to be one of the top food trends of 2011 by the National Restaurant Association.
  2. The Cambridge Mill. Our article on the energy-efficiency technology used by the new Cambridge Mill was incredibly popular. (It was also a lot of fun to write—it isn’t every day we get a tour through an active construction site!) The improvements at the Cambridge Mill are a great example of what can be done to make a large facility as eco-friendly as possible—without sacrificing guest comfort.
  3. Cowbell. Again, a great example of what can be done—this time in a smaller restaurant, with less capital to invest. Cowbell, Toronto’s first LEAF-certified restaurant, is a prime illustration of how small changes—eco-friendly cleaning chemicals and local produce, for example—and a shift in kitchen practices (the folks at Cowbell butcher their own meat) can encourage sustainability without affecting the bottom line.
  4. Dyson Airblade. Everyone we know thinks the Dyson Airblade is one of the coolest things ever. We wanted to see whether the Airblade lived up to its reputation—and so, apparently, did our readers. (Does it warrant its “cool” label? Yes. Yes it does.)
  5. Used restaurant equipment. Is it worth buying used restaurant equipment? It seems like a no-brainer: save money buying used ovens, grills, coffee makers—whatever you can find. But, as the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so—and our readers wanted to find out why.
  6. DIY energy audit. Yes, getting a professional to perform an energy audit is a good idea if you’re looking for ways to save on your energy costs—but you can jump-start the process by doing an energy audit yourself first. (And, while you’re at it, we’ve launched a handy energy checklist to help.)
  7. Saving water in the kitchen. Water is a big deal in a restaurant kitchen. Fortunately, saving water in the kitchen is fairly simple. Our top six water-saving tips were a big hit with readers this year.
  8. Lowfoot. Our article on the company that pays you to reduce your electricity consumption was consistently popular over many months—showing us that our readers are interested in conservation, but efforts work better if there’s an immediate pay-off.
  9. Becoming a green-certified restaurant. Restaurant owners are looking for ways to let consumers know that they’re paying for sustainability and quality—and our interview with Janine Bolton of Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF) highlighted one way to do that.
  10. Energy-efficient upgrades. What energy-efficiency measures will be most cost-effective in the long run? Our readers want to be green, but they want to make sure their investments are going to pay off. This isn’t a simple process, but it’s one that will help save money down the road.

What was your top topic for 2011? Did we miss anything in our articles this year? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Calgary Reviews