The Longest Running Restaurant Guide Was Originally Established To Promote?
Answer: Automobile Sales
If you’re a food lover at heart, you’ve certainly heard a great restaurant described as “Michelin three star rated” before. Since 1900, the Michelin company has published guides to restaurants and hotels, and receiving a coveted star rating, especially a top three star rating, has significant influence on the popularity and prestige of restaurants.
Despite the huge influence Michelin ratings have on the restaurant industry, it was never the intention of André and Édouard Michelin, brothers and the founders of the Michelin company, to create the world’s longest running and most respected food guide. The brothers created the guide in France over one hundred years ago at a time when there were a scant 3,000 automobiles in the country. For you see, the Michelin brothers weren’t in the business of promoting restaurants, they were in the business of selling tires.
If you want to sell tires you need to sell automobiles. If you want to sell automobiles you have to sell the idea of traveling and exploring. And if you want to sell people on the idea that they need an automobile to get out there and explore the world, there’s really no better way to do that than to create a guide book that lists and ranks fancy hotels, restaurants, and sites to see, all of which are far away and require an automobile to visit.
To that end, the Michelin brothers did just that: the first Michelin guide was a 35,000 unit print run packed with useful automotive maintenance tips, lists and maps of mechanics, gas stations, and hotels. They gave the guides away to encourage curious French citizens to explore the countryside. The publication proved successful and was expanded to include other countries and restaurant listings. In 1926, they began awarding stars for fine dining establishments and over the next ten years the system evolved and was refined into the three star system still in use today.
So the next time you find yourself at a star-rated restaurant enjoying the food, you can enjoy a bite or two on behalf of the Michelin brothers who, in their quest to sell some tires, helped create fierce competition between restaurants and ever more sophisticated and delicious food.