Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

Zagat and Michelin: What Every Restaurant Manager Should Know

Getting a good rating requires good food and good business management.

There’s no sugarcoating it: The restaurant business is hard. Around 80% of all new restaurants fail within their first five years.1 And many fail for a common reason: Their reputation is bad.

If people don’t like what you’re serving, if they think your prices aren’t fair, or if they think your service is poor, your chances of attracting the consistent flow of diners you need to pay your bills will go way down. Which is why you have to pay attention to what people think about your restaurant—and understand what makes restaurants well-received and what makes them unpopular.

Zagat and Michelin: What Every Restaurant Manager Should Know

These days, many restaurants monitor Yelp and other crowd-sourcing review sites. But to get a better sense of what truly makes or breaks a restaurant’s reputation, you should also study Zagat and the Michelin Guide. After all, these two storied organizations literally wrote the book on what makes restaurants good and what makes them bad.

What Zagat Can Teach You

First published in the 1980s, the Zagat guide of restaurants was designed to be an alternative to the “stuffy” reviews of professional restaurant critics. Instead of relying on experts, Zagat conducted interviews of diners. They also had diners rate the restaurants in four categories: food, decor, service, and cost.

In each category, diners rated a restaurant on a scale of 1 (not good) to 3 (great); then, the scores were averaged and multiplied by 10 to create a restaurant score. This method revolutionized what sort of ratings mattered and gave restaurant owners an insight into what actual customers thought. And while the internet age has transformed Zagat into a Google-owned entity, with reviews taken from Google reviews and the ratings converted into a five-star system, the original Zagat formula still has a lot to teach us about what diners value. A value system still applies, even in a world of online reviews.

What Michelin Can Teach You

Where Zagat is all about the experience of everyday diners, the Michelin Guide is all about the tastes of professional critics. Many diners still turn to expert sources for advice on where to eat, and no source is more respected than the Michelin Guide.

Begun in 1900 to help French motorists find lodging, the Michelin Guide evolved over the years into the world’s premier guide for fine dining. Unlike other guides, Michelin doesn’t rate every restaurant in a city. Instead, the guide only includes restaurants Michelin believes are worthy of one, two, or three stars. Even a one-star rating is considered a huge accomplishment. Restaurants that receive three stars are considered among the best in the world. In 2018, only 14 restaurants in the entire United States received three Michelin stars.2

What can such an exclusive guide teach the average restaurant? It teaches us that restaurant perfection takes a lot of effort. While your restaurant may not be focused on fine dining, you can still learn about high-quality food preparation, dish presentation, decor, and service from reading the reviews of Michelin-starred restaurants. And your restaurant would likely benefit by applying the kind of meticulousness, discipline, creativity, and investments in interior design and professional service that are the hallmarks of the world’s best restaurants.

How a Management Degree Can Also Help

Despite the fact that many chefs are treated in our culture as artists, restaurants are still a business. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of the most successful restaurateurs are graduates of the best business schools. If you want to excel in the restaurant business, following in their footsteps could be a very good idea.

What business degree should you earn? One of the best choices is the MS in Management. Through a master’s in management program, you can gain the skills you need to manage both the overall strategies and the day-to-day operations of a business. In a way, it’s like advanced management training. And, thanks to online education, you don’t even have to take time off from your job to earn the degree.

Through an online master’s in management program, you can complete your master’s degree right from home. Plus, online graduate degree programs let you complete your MS degree studies at whatever time of day works best for you. That means you’ll have the opportunity to focus on your management degree without it interfering with your work schedule.

Yes, running a restaurant isn’t easy. Chef Gordon Ramsay, who owns several Michelin star restaurants, shares with us on TV shows like Hell’s Kitchen just how challenging it can be. He also understands the value of a business degree. It is Chef Ramsay’s business savvy that has turned him into a successful household name and brand, with enterprises reaching from Michelin-star restaurants to television shows to mobile gaming apps. If you understand what makes restaurants successful and earn an MS in Management, you can make success a lot more possible.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Management degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,