Michelin status: is it still relevant in measuring guest experience?


Michelin status: is it still relevant in measuring guest experience?

Michelin star logo

The hospitality industry has recently seen a backlash against Michelin, with a number of starred venues rejecting its rigorous standards of excellence. Has the Michelin standard had its day?

The announcement by chefs Karen Keygnaert and Sebastien Bras (with restaurants in Belgium and France respectively) that they have decided to return their Michelin stars is nothing new. Plenty of others have made the same decision in the past, including Marco Pierre White, who returned his three stars after he became convinced that the Michelin standard was irrelevant: “The future of dining is casual dining. Let’s be real,” he was quoted as saying.

It was a sentiment way ahead of its time. This year, the owners of Michelin starred restaurant Boath House in the Scottish Highlands spoke out to say it was impossible to match up to Michelin standards and maintain a healthy profit margin, announcing they would be taking a new tack and offering simpler and more authentic food check. Skye Gyngell (now head chef at Spring at Somerset House) garnered considerable press when she described the Michelin recognition as ‘burdensome,’ when she was awarded a star for her food at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond.

Aside from the impressive PR response, there is a sense that Michelin’s ways of measuring the quality of food and service, which for a long time were considered the holy grail for restauranteurs, now have a much more limited appeal. Michelin’s rigid emphasis on formalities (from overly attentive staff to particular ingredients), seems more anachronistic than it did even ten years ago. Its rulebook is out of step with what most guests want: a comfortable setting, friendly but not stuffy service, and good food that isn’t overly fiddly or intimidatingly pretentious.

The goalposts have changed in hospitality. In the past, consumers wanted a trusted authority to guide them in their choice of restaurant, looking to bodies such as Michelin as a mark of quality that gave them confidence. Now, there’s so much information available online that a positive Tripadvisor write-up, or a glowing post by a respected blogger can have more real-world persuasive power than Michelin status. Consumers are setting their own standards.

Keygnaert makes the point that ‘fine dining’ culture itself is shifting. “People now go for dinner in another way: casual, quick, just for fun or a quick bite. In my new restaurant, the food remains the same, but the formula for offering it will change. I continue to serve quality food, but not as a (set) menu, so people can decide for themselves how expensive or long they want their meal to be.”

For hospitality providers, the onus is on them to recalibrate their internal standards to match up with the priorities of their customers. This is where HGEM can be incredibly helpful. When Guest Experience Management ties in with the individual brand and concept, this gives a far more accurate perspective on how a provider is doing at delivering a great guest experience.

“It’s understandable that restaurants get hung up on comparing themselves with competitors,” says HGEM’s Managing Director, Steven Pike. “All of this does have a significant influence on perceptions and it’s important for marketing purposes. However, guests don’t want their experiences at different restaurants to conform to the same set standard every time. Measuring something as personal and varied as the guest experience against a rigid rulebook should be balanced against defining what it is about your brand experience that makes it unique and ensuring this is delivered consistently time after time.”

Back to Blog