The Michelin myth

Consumers apparently prefer rank-order lists and seeing a name attached to a review

ANDREW J. LINN

Love it or hate it, the Michelin Guide is unique.

It was the first publication of its kind, and it relies on an anonymous team of 'inspectors' to report on restaurants worldwide.

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  • Arienzo Marqués de Riscal

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Six years ago, 'Gastronomie' magazine published their photographs and CVs, fulfiling every restaurant owner's desire to know who they were. There are anyway some telltale signs: credit card names never tally with the name the reservation was made for; a call back to the number used to make the reservation is answered by the Michelin office; booking a table for 2/3 and then changing the reservation to one (Michelin inspectors always eat alone).

The cost of meals, travel, accommodation, and salary would be around 120,000 euros each annually, so Michelin's claim there are 500 on the payroll is preposterous.

Moreover, can a restaurant be judged from a single visit, as appears to be standard, and if the chef has his day off, will the resulting review be fair?

The Guide's detractors support the heavily-rumoured reliance upon other chefs commenting on their colleagues' theory, as well as regular diners-out and bloggers.

There is no way the Guide could fulfil its commitments using a fully paid-up workforce.

Michelin is slipping behind consensus and social media websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and Instagram, as well as rank-order projects like the World's 50 Best Restaurants, La Liste 1,000 and Opinionated About Dining (OAD).

Consumers apparently prefer rank-order lists and seeing a name attached to a review. Nevertheless, because of Michelin's history and classy image, it will be around for many more years to come.