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Is The Michelin Guide In Trouble?

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 07/18/11 05:12 PM ET Updated: 09/17/11 06:12 AM ET

The storied Michelin Guide might have a bleak future, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. The Internet age hasn't been kind to the red book, which has been deemed outdated by everyone from Francois Simon, renowned food critic for Le Figaro, to the consulting firm Accenture, which was hired by Michelin to help get the company's act together. Years ago, Marco Pierre White gave back his Michelin stars but more recently, even a French chef has said "no thanks."

So just why has Le Guide Rouge perhaps lost its mojo? Josh Ozersky wrote last year that the system of reviewing restaurants is far from transparent. Anonymous inspectors can elevate a guide's reputation, but they can also tarnish it. Yes, there's no pay-for-play. But it's hard to trust a person without knowing their background or training. Everyone has a food blog these days; even if the reviews aren't from experts, one can easily learn more from various sources than one can from a single Michelin write-up. Michelin's efforts to keep up with the digital age have been largely unsuccessful.

Also, fine dining simply isn't what it used to be, and the Guide has been criticized for being too French cuisine-focused. New York's Del Posto, a high-end Italian restaurant, holds a coveted four stars by the New York Times, but only one Michelin star. Then there was the case of the review of a Belgian restaurant that hadn't actually opened. Based on the Guide's current performance, including recent closures in Austria, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Accenture estimated that the Michelin Guide will be losing $26 million a year by 2015—meaning a $98 million cumulative loss over the next four years.

Despite all of the above, the Michelin Guide is far from irrelevant. The Financial Times notes that awarding a Michelin star to a restaurant can boost profits 30 percent. A Michelin star remains a coveted achievement, and a lot of pressure to uphold, noted by the high-profile suicide of chef Bernard Loiseau. The Guide is still a marker of a restaurant's success—it just isn't on as high of a pedestal anymore.

We can't help but wonder, is this a precursor for the fate of another red book as well?

To understand more about the process of being a Michelin inspector, watch the video below.

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