The role of guides in artistic industries

Bernard Surlemont (HEC Management School – University of Liège, Liège, Belgium Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland)
Colin Johnson (Department of Hospitality Management, San José State University, San José, California, USA)

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The haute‐cuisine industry must cope with two, apparently antagonist demands from customers: providing reliable advice about the choice of restaurant, while concurrently preserving the “magic of discovery” and creativity every haute‐cuisine restaurant should provide. This paper has the objective of analysing how the Michelin guide “star system” operates as a “signalling device” in the industry, and handles these two market requirements. The research also explores how secrecy contributes to preserve chefs' creativity for the benefit of customer satisfaction.


The research is derived from 20 exploratory field interviews of chefs belonging to the “star system” in France, Switzerland and the UK.


Field research and analysis reveal the pressure to minimize type II errors, i.e. of selecting restaurants that do not merit inclusion and, consequently, increase type I errors. This behaviour explains the stability, reliability and consistency of the system.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is needed to analyse the extent to which the phenomenon observed in the haute‐cuisine industry is manifest in other artistic (i.e. fashion) or hospitality (i.e. hotels) related sectors.

Practical implications

There is no unique route to the star system. The best way for chefs to increase the odds to get promoted is to focus on quality, develop their own style and be patient. The policy of the Michelin guide opens the door for competing guides willing to take more risk of type I errors.


This exploratory research is the first attempt to analyse the role of gastronomic guides in the haute‐cuisine sector.



Surlemont, B. and Johnson, C. (2005), "The role of guides in artistic industries", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 577-590.

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