There is always debate surrounding decisions by restaurant, hotel and pub guide editors to rate certain establishments higher than others when they release their latest edition, but one thing is certain, a favourable listing can help bring more customers through the door and help boost trade. According to Restaurant magazine`s cover feature this month, a Michelin star can add an average 30 per cent to a restaurant`s takings while a poor, or no review, can mean a drop in revenue. To give you a better understanding of how some of the guide books work and how you can give yourself a better chance of appearing in them, we`ve compiled this short guide to getting in the guides.
AA Guides (hotel, restaurant and pub)
Guide description: The AA compiles separate guides for hotels, restaurants and pubs in Great Britain and Ireland, which were all given a new look this year to celebrate the organisation`s 100th year of inspecting and rating hospitality establishments. The hotel guide has run the longest and features reviews of 4,000 hotels that have one to five stars. The restaurant guide includes 1,900 restaurants with between one and five AA rosettes while there are 2,000 inns, taverns, gastropubs and hostelries in the pub guide that have all been rated on merit. `Neighbourhood` restaurants that may not be up to Rosette standard, but are `popular, pleasant and busy` may also be included. New guides are released in September every year.
When to expect the inspector: Establishments can ask to be inspected themselves or can be recommended by an inspector or the public. Restaurants and hotels are asked to submit a selection of menus, wine list and the chef`s CV before inspectors decide whether to visit or not. Visits are made anonymously before inspectors decide whether to award Rosettes and, if so, how many.
How can you improve your chances of appearing in it?: In the case of food, inspectors look for evidence of simple techniques which retain the flavours of the food. They like to see local food on the menu, but not if it`s bad quality. Service is also of utmost importance. The cut-off date to appear in the 2010 edition of the guides is April 2009 so apply now for the chance to appear in it.
Harden`s UK Restaurant Guide
Guide description: Harden`s, run by brothers Richard and Peter Harden calls on 8,000 restaurant-goers to participate in an annual survey of restaurants around the country. They collectively submit around 85,000 reviews and sets of ratings, which provide the basis both for the analysis which leads to the ratings awarded, and the comments used for reviews.
When to expect the inspector:At any time of the year. Reviewers visit in the normal course of their daily lives.
How can you improve your chances of appearing in it?: Harden`s, quite intentionally, give no guidance on criteria to their restaurant reviewers, except to mark against restaurants with similar price points, therefore there is no particular area that a restaurant should focus on . Food and ambience are the main areas focused on in the final UK guide, so restaurants should aim to make both attractive to their customers. For London restaurants good service is deemed more important. Harden`s says: "For a business meal, service will often be as important as the ambience, and more important than the food. For a foodie adventure, however, search criteria would probably be exactly the opposite. We try to put the reader in the position to do whatever search is appropriate."
Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland
Guide description: This year’s Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland features 4,354 entries, 2,516 of which are hotels and guesthouses and 1,838 are restaurants and pubs. About 10 per cent of these are given between one to three Michelin stars while the rest are either listed or given a Bib Gourmand (introduced in 1997 to denote a restaurant that offers excellent value for money). Michelin has a large team of inspectors who visit establishments across the country after either being asked by the business itself, a member of the public, or on their own accord. They spend three weeks on the road every month looking for good hotels and restaurants. They then test and confirm establishments that either will be included in the selection, or will be removed from the guide. Meetings are held twice a year to decide on who should receive Michelin stars. A new guide is released in January each year.
When to expect the inspector: Inspectors make anonymous visits throughout the year. As with the AA, restaurants can ask to be inspected themselves or can be recommended. Michelin inspectors then visit if the establishment meets certain criteria.
How can you improve your chances of appearing in it?: There is no simple answer. There are different ways an establishment can be rated in the Michelin guide. The vast majority of establishments in the Michelin guide are not `starred`, but to receive a star, the cooking must be of a very high standard and be matched by top class service. To receive three, the top grade, it must consistently serve exceptional food, display faultless service, have elegant surroundings and serve fine wines. Michelin uses symbols to signify levels in certain areas. The number of pavilions (for hotels) and fork and spoons (for restaurants) signify the level of comfort. For example, a restaurant may be given five forks and spoons because it has luxury ‘in the traditional style’ but not receive a star because the food has not quite hit the spot with inspectors. Michelin also says: "Investing in silverware and valet parking will increase the number of forks and spoons (for a restaurant) or pavilions (for a hotel) but will have no impact on the number of stars. Serving outstanding dishes will have no influence on a restaurant’s level of comfort but may have an impact on the number of stars. The two categories are totally separate." In any case, ensure you put your establishment forward by October at the latest to have a chance of appearing in the next year`s guide.
Which? Good Food Guide
Guide description: The Good Food Guide features reviews of more than 1,000 restaurants around the UK and a new edition is released in September every year. Each year, the guide is re-written from scratch. Which? readers are encouraged to submit reviews of restaurants they have visited. Inspectors then visit restaurants themselves anonymously to check recommendations and score the restaurants using ‘extensive scoring guidelines’.
When to expect the inspector: At any time throughout the year – lunch or dinner. Visits are made anonymously by inspectors after they’ve read through reader reviews and recommendations. As the guide is released in September chances are inspectors will be on the road from winter until the following summer.
How can you improve your chances of appearing in it?: The main thing Which? inspectors look for is evidence of dedicated and focused cooking using quality ingredients, but the service also needs to be good enough for them to want to visit again and crucially recommend the restaurant to their friends and family, so if you`re confident that you`re food`s good, also ensure that front of house is up to scratch. Guide editor Elizabeth Carter also urges restaurants to keep Which? updated with their basic information, such as opening hours, chef biogs and set menu prices. "It only takes a few minutes but it can mean a great deal for your business" she told Restaurant magazine.