While every restaurateur dreams of their business earning Michelin Star status, few establishments have earned the prestigious Michelin Guide designation and the exposure that follows. An emblem of fine dining recognized by top chefs and patrons alike, Michelin Stars are awarded by anonymous “inspectors” who pay for their meals and generate a rating based on their dining experience. But what exactly are these inspectors looking for? 

According to five industry professionals, the decision typically comes down to how well restaurants perform under five key criteria: value for money, consistency of food, the use of quality products, the personality of the chef in the cuisine, and mastery of flavor and cooking techniques.

When it comes to value for money, inspectors seek restaurants that are able to provide customers with memorable experiences, not just tasty food. In addition to the meal itself, restaurants should have strong ambiance and attentive staff. It’s important to note that value in this context is not associated with a specific price range. Restaurants seeking excellence, no matter their target audience, should focus on going above and beyond to make sure every patron is satisfied with their visit.

Inspectors also look for restaurants that are able to consistently deliver quality meals. In fact, the failure to do so has resulted in restaurants’ loss of stars in the past. Of course, restaurant staff are human and mistakes are bound to happen every once in a while. For this reason, multiple inspectors visit each restaurant on different occasions to get a sense of the business’s overall performance. 

Consistency is especially important in restaurants with famous head chefs, who often travel for collaborations and events. However, the issue of consistency isn’t exclusive to this particular work environment. Whether a restaurant is world-renowned or up-and-coming, it’s important that staff know how to keep things running smoothly when the boss is away. Staff should be able to work with minimum supervision, and should be familiar with and ready to implement contingency plans at a moment’s notice.

Quality ingredients are another hallmark of Michelin Star restaurants. However, many tend to buy into the myth that ingredients must be luxury in order to be considered high quality. In reality, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients can make just as much of an impact as turbot or truffles. Restaurants looking for a breakthrough without breaking the bank should shift their focus to “making the simple sublime.”

Discovering a new twist on a classic dish is just one of the many ways that chefs can show their personalities through their cuisine, a talent that has earned many restaurants their Michelin Stars. However, some restaurants are managed by organizations, making it difficult for chefs to establish an identity outside their brand. Restaurateurs who want to ensure chefs aren’t bogged down by branding can do so by fostering a work culture that rewards experimentation and risk-taking. 

Finally, inspectors look for restaurants where chefs have shown a mastery of flavor and cooking techniques through their dishes. As mentioned earlier, dishes do not need to feature luxury ingredients in order to find success. Chefs who are able to skillfully mix textures and flavors can make even the most practical dishes stand out.

While few restaurants will earn Michelin Star designation, that doesn’t mean all restaurants shouldn’t strive for culinary excellence in their day-to-day operations. By implementing the practices recommended under Michelin’s five key criteria — -value for money, consistency of food, the use of quality products, the personality of the chef in the cuisine, and mastery of flavor, and cooking techniques — every restaurant has the ability to provide patrons with a high-quality dining experience.