The rating system for restaurants began back in the early 1900s, and today, it is one way consumers meter their expectations for fine dining establishments. A customer sees a one-star rating and automatically removes that restaurant from consideration. What really goes into establishing these ratings, however? It depends somewhat on the guide reviewing the business, but there are similarities that can put a restaurant in the high range for all.
Atmosphere is one of the first things a reviewer notices when entering a restaurant. Five-star ratings go to businesses that are exclusive and elite. For example, AAA lists ambiance as a criteria for their five-star label. Little facets like a spotless waiting area and custom menu covers add to the overall effect. The look must say world-class right from the start.
Evaluators grade three specific things when it comes to the restaurant structure:
- Physical condition of the building
Without positive points on all three, the business is unlikely to see five stars.
Readily available and helpful management is a clue raters looks for in a fine restaurant. Generally, they set up an interview with the owner or general manager prior to the official visit. This is a critical part of establishing the rating, according to AAA. The restaurant representative must be factual and ready to answer questions. A reviewer might ask about plans for renovation, custom menu cover designs and specialty dishes.
The most obvious consideration is food quality. AAA combines service and food together for 80 percent of the total rating during their evaluations. Décor gets just 20 percent. The Australian Good Food and Travel Guide seems to lean more heavily on atmosphere than actual food, however.
The rater will grade all elements of food selections. Do the menu descriptions match the food served, for example? What about taste and texture? Does the menu serve the restaurant classification? In other words, a restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine should serve authentic dishes.
A proper service staff needs to be able to answer any food or drink related question presented to them. A five-star restaurant needs an appointed maitre de, wait staff in formal attire and a team well trained in the art of service. A wine steward is an added bonus.
Details, Details, Details
When it comes to running a five-star restaurant, the devil really is in the details. It is the little nuances that add up to five points such as a building with architectural flair. Other things that earn high accolades from reviewers include:
- A separate bar
- A dining area with private seating for VIP guests
- Custom menu covers
- Vegan and vegetarian offerings
- Comprehensive wine selection that includes contemporary, boutique international and local bottles
- On staff sommelier
- Classical pianist or other proper live music
There is no one thing that will make a restaurant stand out. Different guides list different criteria for their top ratings. For example, the AGFG requires a five-start business to serve complimentary hors oeuvres. That is not required for an AAA Diamond rating in the US, however.
It breaks down into two categories for most – facility and service. Cleanliness, attention to detail such as custom menu covers and distinctive atmosphere with quality food and service all add up to top honors in the restaurant industry.