For the last five months [Michelin] gastronomic undercover agents have been working on the Michelin Guide to New York City, the company’s first hotel and restaurant ratings outside Europe. Michelin’s green sightseeing guides have covered the United States since 1968.
Édouard Michelin, the chairman of the French tire company that bears his name, is expected to announce plans for the 2006 New York guide. The book, to go on sale Nov. 15, will rate 500 restaurants in the five boroughs and 50 Manhattan hotels.
Here is The New York Times story.
How will this matter? Zagat’s guides, the main U.S. competitor, are sold to make profit. Furthermore they rely on unpaid reader evaluations, which tend to be low-brow or middle-brow. Michelin Red Guides hire quality inspectors but typically lose money. They are viewed by the parent company as loss leaders for the company name. Whether or not this loss leader logic will apply to the U.S., the Michelin inspectors have accumulated expertise in "tony" (some would say snobby) evaluations.
So use the Michelin guide if you are rich, using an expense account, or have especially good taste in food. (I put myself only in the latter category.) The median buyer, just out for fun, can stick with Zagat.
It is well known that Michelin "carries" the Lyon restaurant of Paul Bocuse at the exalted three-star status, even though the place no longer merits such high marks. Bocuse remains a well-connected French culinary institution. How much will the guide have to pander to and flatter Americans? If New York has no three-star restaurants, will U.S. customers view the guide as French culinary snobbery?