The Story of The Michelin Guide
SD Trading works closely together with a number of Michelin Star Chefs all around Europe. Today, most of us think about exclusivity, high- end and expensive when hearing the word Michelin and might have a bucket list with Michelin Star restaurants that they one day would like to visit. But how did the Michelin Guide become the world’s authority on restaurants? And how did the world’s most talented chefs and esteemed restaurants come to be so concerned with the approval and stars of a company that sold rubber tires.
The first issue of the Michelin Guide was published in 1900, at that time there were only 3000 cars on the roads in all of France and they were referred to as ‘horseless carriage cars’. Most of the Brothers Michelins business was making bicycle tires. Motorized cars would not become widely available to the masses for another 8 years, after Ford produced the Model T. Therefore, in order to increase the demand for tires, the brothers needed to increase the demand for cars. And to do that they needed to give people a reason to travel further afield.
Essentially, the guide was meant to be an attempt to get people in their cars more and discover new places thus wear out the tires of their vehicles and buy new ones from Michelin.
Around 35.000 copies of the first edition were printed and given away for free. The Guide contained useful information for motorists, including tourist tips, petrol stations as well as maps and of course instructions for changing tires.
This French edition was followed by guides for Switzerland, Bavaria, the British Isles and “The countries of the sun”. (North Africa, Italy and Corsica)
After the First World War, in 1920 Michelin began charging a price for the guide after one of the brothers, Andre Michelin had visited a tire merchant that used the copies to prop up a workbench. Based on the principle that “man only truly respects what he pays for” the brothers decided to stop giving away the guide for free.
The guide became more complex by the issue with restaurants and hotels listed by specific categories and soon enough, as the brothers recognized a growing interest in their restaurant guide, a team of anonymous inspectors were recruited to visit and review restaurants.
The infamous Michelin Stars were introduced in 1926. At first, there was only a single star awarded but in the 1930s a hierarchy was introduced of 1 star representing “a very good restaurant” 2 stars “excellent cooking worth a detour” and 3 stars “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. One of the them being Ostreria Francescana in Modena, Italy with head chef Massimo Bottura, a Michelin star chef how have used our disposable plates on many occasions.
And that is the story of how the restaurant industry came to worship a company that sell rubber tires.
This is an example of corporate branding at its best and could be a good method to use to increase the sustainability around the world.