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History of the MICHELIN Guide

Michelin star

As with all great inventions that changed the course of history, the Michelin Guide didn't start out as the iconic dining guide it turned out to be today. The Michelin Guide’s roots were far more humble, with the idea originally conceived to encourage more tourists to take to the road using a little red guidebook.

A Grand Vision

It all started in Clermont-Ferrand (a small French town) in 1889, when brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin founded their world-famous tyre company, fuelled by a grand vision for France’s automobile industry at a time when there were fewer than 3,000 cars in the country.

To help motorists develop their trips - thereby boosting car and tyre sales and in turn - the Michelin brothers produced a small red guide filled with handy information for travellers, such as maps, information on how to change a tyre, where to fill up with fuel, and for the traveller in search of respite from the adventures of the day.

For two decades, all that information came at no cost. Until a fateful encounter that remains a favourite anecdote repeated today, when Andre Michelin arrived at a tyre shop to see his beloved guides being used to prop up a workbench. Based on the principle that “man only truly respects what he pays for”, a brand new Michelin Guide was launched in 1920 and sold for seven francs.

A Better Way Forward

For the first time in the 1920s, it included a list of hotels in Paris, lists of restaurants according to specific categories, as well as the abandonment of paid-for advertisements in the guide.

Acknowledging the growing influence of the guide’s restaurant section, the Michelin brothers also recruited a team of mystery diners – or restaurant inspectors, as we better know them today – to visit and review restaurants anonymously.

In 1926, the guide began to award stars to fine dining establishments, initially marking them only with a single star. Five years later, a hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was introduced, and in 1936, the criteria for the starred rankings were published.

During the rest of 20th century, thanks to its serious and unique approach, the Michelin Guides became best-sellers: the guide now rates over 40,000 establishments in over 24 territories across three continents, and more than 30 million Michelin Guides have been sold worldwide since.

Today, the remarkable foresight of the founding Michelin brothers has given the company a vocation that is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in 1900 – namely, to make driving, tourism and the search for unforgettable experiences available to all.

For more information on Michelin in Thailand visit: www.michelin.co.th.

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