There's nothing any restaurant aspires to more than to be recognised as a five-star venue. This honour indicates that a restaurant has reached the highest levels of excellence in all areas.
But what really goes into a five-star restaurant? What qualities of five-star restaurants can you seek to emulate in your own venue?
In our complete guide to what makes a restaurant five-star, we will answer all these questions and more. Here is everything you need to know to have your restaurant rise in the ranks and become a truly esteemed venue.
Restaurant rating systems explained
There is no single universal system for rating a hospitality venue. The most globally-respected system of rating restaurants is the Michelin Guide. Published by the French tyre company Michelin, it distributes grades of one star, two stars or three stars.
Per the Guide, here is what each number of Michelin stars indicates:
- One Michelin Star: High-quality cooking, worth a stop.
- Two Michelin Stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour.
- Three Michelin Stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
Some other notable restaurant rating systems include:
- Gambero Rosso: This magazine rates Italian restaurants on a scale of one to three forks.
- Harden's: This UK publication uses reader surveys to rate restaurants on a scale of one to five. It uses these ratings to rank restaurants from one to 100.
- Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide: This Australian newspaper rates the best restaurants in the country on a scale from one to three hats.
As you can see, there is no singular metric that dictates a restaurant's status as a five-star venue. In fact, many of the most esteemed restaurant rating systems don’t even use a five-star scale.
It is better to think of the concept of a five-star venue in a more symbolic way. A five-star venue is a restaurant that has established itself as one of the very best around and has been acknowledged as such by a local or foreign rating system.
There’s another star rating system that prospective customers are sure to be very interested in: Online reviews. Sites like Google and Yelp! use star rating systems to let customers know which venues are worth their time.
There are some key differences between online reviews and more old-school ways of rating restaurants. A five-star Google review is a good deal easier to achieve than getting five stars from an esteemed outlet. Therefore, it is less prestigious.
However, a great online review score might be just as important. 87% of UK customers say online reviews influence their dining decisions, and similar have been recorded across the globe.
The good news is that the same tips for getting five stars via a traditional restaurant rating system will also help your online reviews. It all comes down to the same principles of building a great venue.
How to create a 5-star restaurant
To be considered a five-star restaurant, a restaurant must excel in all areas. It must go above and beyond, ascending from a very good restaurant to a truly exceptional one. The features you will need to exemplify to become a five-star restaurant can be split into the following pillars:
What makes a restaurant 5-star?
The head chef is the key player in a five-star restaurant. They must lead their team in a manner that allows high-calibre food to be consistently served at all times.
The best restaurants in the world are led by auteurs with a vision and extensive knowledge of the culinary arts. Think Clare Smyth, Massimo Bottura or Gordon Ramsey. In fact, one of the core grading criteria for Michelin-star restaurants is "the personality of the chef in the cuisine."
If you want to have a five-star venue, it should be the same. Find a brilliant chef with a clear vision for your restaurant.
Maybe you don't have the budget to splash around on a snazzy, renowned chef. Thankfully, the hospitality industry is brimming with young upstart chefs waiting for their opportunity to make their mark on the industry. Conduct a thorough interview process to ensure you end up with the right candidate.
For restaurant managers, it can be a challenging prospect to hand over the reins of their venue. To operate a five-star venue, it is essential to put the food at the forefront, and this involves handing over plenty of influence to your head chef. If you have chosen wisely, this will pay dividends.
Any chef worth their salt will tell you that the key to a great restaurant experience is in the produce used. Legendary chef Marco Pierre-White says that all great chefs "respect nature as the true artist, and they are just cooks."
This means that you will need to find ways to source the best ingredients possible for your venue. Consider a wide range of purchasing techniques and find a method of sourcing excellent ingredients that works for you.
Prioritise local and seasonal ingredients, as freshness is the key to high-quality food. Frequent appearances at local markets are another excellent method for tracking down fresh and delicious ingredients.
When it comes time to turn produce into delicious cuisine, ensure that your dish lets the produce do the talking, allowing it to shine.
You could have a kitchen filled with the world's very best chefs, but you will not get very far without a great menu. Work closely with your team of chefs to design a menu that will excite and delight customers. If you are building from scratch, you will need a particularly enticing menu to help attract the eyes of the most respected critics in your area.
As a restaurant manager, you may have to step in and help craft a menu that doesn't completely sacrifice practicality for the sake of your head chef's culinary vision. After all, there's no point stacking accolades if your restaurant has to close down to a lack of financial viability.
Your menu should be utterly delicious, while also providing innovation. It needs to be forward-thinking in some way to grab the attention and acclaim of the reviewer.
Consider innovative techniques, as well as the latest trends. For example, Australian cuisine is currently seeing a massive uptick in the usage and celebration of native Australian ingredients. See if you can implement trends like this in your restaurant's menu in a way that stands out from the pack.
Fine dining is so much more than just the food we consume. One of the key factors in achieving an excellent rating for your restaurant is offering a consistently outstanding experience to your customers.
Decor and interior design also play a crucial role in a dining experience. A great meal involves all the senses, and the wider environment is a huge part of that.
Choose a particular ambience you want to target in your restaurant. Whether you want to project a tranquil garden or a Parisian bistro, work with a professional interior designer to build a distinctive visual style that matches your vision.
Music, lighting, table settings, cutlery and more all play an important role in establishing a brilliant dining experience. Delivering a welcoming and unique dining atmosphere time and again is one of the key ingredients that sets a five-star restaurant apart from the competition.
How to get a restaurant rating
There are not many shortcuts you can take to get your restaurants reviewed and rated by a popular outlet. The most reliable method is to simply create an exceptional restaurant that the critics cannot possibly avoid. That means closely following the tips above and maintaining a consistent standard of excellence.
Once you have properly established your venue as a landmark in your local community, there is no harm in putting out the feelers to your publication of choice and inviting them for a meal. Just ensure you don't come across as overly pushy or entitled.
You will also need to set realistic goals for your restaurant ratings. Think your restaurant deserves some attention from the Michelin inspectors? You might simply be in the wrong location.
Only 17 countries (as well as Hong Kong and Macau) received stars in the 2022 Michelin Guide. There are many jurisdictions that the guide simply doesn't attend to, including Oceania.
So you may have to set your sights on a more attainable rating. Fortunately, just about every nation in the world has some kind of esteemed restaurant rating system for you to target. They might not have the name recognition of Michelin, but your local customers are sure to pay attention to them.
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Frequently asked questions
What determines the stars of a restaurant?
Depending on the specific rating system in question, the stars of a restaurant can be determined by myriad different factors. The gold standard of restaurant ratings, the Michelin Guide, uses five main criteria:
- Quality of the ingredients used
- Mastery of flavour and cooking techniques
- The personality of the chef in the cuisine
- Harmony of flavours
- Consistency between visits
What does a five-star restaurant mean?
There is no hard-and-fast definition of a "five-star restaurant". A five-star rating system is actually quite rare among the world's most esteemed restaurant reviewers and rating systems. Think of a five-star restaurant as one that achieves consistent excellence in every single area of operation.
How much does a chef at a five-star restaurant make?
Head chef salaries in Australia generally range up to approximately $110,000. Of course, the world's top chefs earn well above that. Celebrity chefs can earn millions of dollars every year thanks to media opportunities, cookbook and cookware sales, endorsements and more, in addition to their restaurant salaries.