The decline of Michelin-starred restaurants

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

And then there is the spread of the Michelin brand. There are now Michelin guides for many US cities, which has caused the brand to lose some exclusivity. Michelin has awarded stars to 24 restaurants in the Washington area, for instance. I like many of these places, but I suspect Michelin is grading on a curve.

Social media are another part of the market evolution. Instagramming your meal is a popular pastime, and it suits some restaurants better than others. A lot of people, understandably, are reluctant to pull out their camera phones in a haute Parisian establishment, whereas they will gladly do so in a creative and more casual spot for Indian nouvelle cuisine in London or Singapore. El Bulli (now closed) and Noma have been amazingly good at attracting publicity and inducing pilgrimages, but apart from the very top of the market, Michelin-starred restaurants are operating at a publicity disadvantage.

Another factor working against Michelin is growing time pressure — especially among its well-to-do customer base. Many Michelin-starred dining experiences are slow, and the fixed-price menus often are designed to take up the entire evening, especially if paired with wine. But people are increasingly busy, and the smart phone’s pull of texts and posts and tweets is only getting stronger. And maybe, because of the pandemic, we all want to stretch our legs more often. Speaking for myself, I am much less interested in the three-hour meal than I used to be.

The decline of alcohol consumption in many parts of the world may also be bad for the Michelin experience. Marijuana use, by contrast, is up, and that of course encourages snacking at home.

Here are some related remarks by Air Genius Gary Leff: “In Many Cities, The Michelin Guide Is Now Paid For By The Local Tourism Authority.”

The decline of Michelin-starred restaurants

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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