There are various rating systems for restaurants around the world. Restaurants are most often rated by travel guides such as Michelin and Forbes. Other restaurants are reviewed and ranked by professionals and organizations in the food service industry. Restaurants may also be rated by local reviewers, by food magazines, and even by the automobile club AAA.
The best-known and most widely accepted restaurant ratings in the United States are made by the Michelin and Forbes travel guide organizations. Michelin issues a participating restaurant from one to three stars, depending on the quality of food and service that its reviewers find there. The Forbes group may issue anywhere from one to five stars for its reviewed restaurants.
Other national restaurant reviewers include AAA, which issues its restaurants from one to five diamonds, and the Zagat Group, which uses a scale from one to thirty points in rating and ranking its participating restaurants. The Internet provides a forum for many other homegrown restaurant reviewers and the space for comments by both satisfied and dissatisfied diners.
Can I rate local restaurants?
Sure! User recommendations via the Internet are becoming more and more common. Users can immediately post their comments, both positive and negative, on a variety of websites to let their friends and other potential customers know about their own dining experiences.
One of the most reliable and popular of these websites is Yelp.com. The yelp site features comments by regular patrons like you and uses a five-star system to tally individual ratings.
Other popular sites include urbanspoon.com and chowhound.com, which provides users with tips and information on food and cooking, as well as insights into local restaurants. Facebook also provides its members with instant and often multiple reviews featuring personal opinions on local restaurants, in addition to myriad other businesses.
What do the ratings generally consist of?
Michelin considers its guide to be much more than just a directory of hotels and restaurants. Professional Michelin inspectors clandestinely sample and inspect restaurants throughout the entire year. This anonymous process has been ongoing for more than 100 years!
Being chosen for the Michelin guide is an honor in itself and earning even a single star is a high recommendation indeed. One star is awarded to a restaurant that is considered to be very good in its category. One-star restaurants offer consistently good food and are good places to stop when traveling.
A two-star restaurant features excellent food; carefully and skillfully crafted dishes that are well worth a special trip, according to Michelin standards. The crème de la crème in the Michelin world are three-star winners, restaurants that offer superb food and extraordinary dining experiences.
The Michelin star symbols are only used to judge what appears on the plate in each restaurant. Consideration is given for the quality of the products served, the chef’s mastery of flavors and cooking, and the unique personality of the featured cuisine. Also taken into account are the value of the meals being judged and the consistency of the food service, based on the entire menu over the course of a year.
Michelin uses other symbols, such as forks and spoons, to rate other facets of an establishment such as ambience, wines, and overall comfort. The Michelin organization has a self-professed obsession with quality, which is why the Michelin Guide is considered the absolute best source for restaurant recommendations.
What rating systems are used in other countries?
Europe employs a number of rating systems for better-known fine dining establishments. Countries that rely heavily on tourism have nationalized rating systems, managed and maintained by government agencies and separate bureaus of travel and tourism.
One prime example of government ranking and control can be found in Spain. As tourism is Spain’s number one industry, the Spanish government insures that all purveyors of food, beverages, and lodging are continuously monitored and rated. Ratings for restaurants and hotels are prominently displayed at the entrance point to each establishment.
Ratings for bars are noted in cups, and for restaurants a patron will count the number of forks awarded to each establishment. These awards are prominently displayed along with menus and are generally located in the front window at each business location. Knowing the number of forks or cups a place has earned allows consumers to know exactly what ambiance, quality, and pricing they will find there.
Other lists, reviews, and rankings of restaurants can be found in national or international newspapers such as the New York Times, or travel websites such as TripAdvisor.com.
How can I get more involved in the rating process?
As mentioned earlier, numerous websites have sprung up that allow patrons to rate their individual dining experiences and pass along their comments online. Rating companies also follow customer recommendations, especially for new, smaller, or out-of-the-way places. It never hurts to send a note or email to a rating firm to help introduce a new restaurant gem.