by A.J. Coltrane
By Nate Silver, posted on his Five-Thirty-Eight site. The piece looks at the correlation between Yelp reviews and Michelin stars in New York. “Yelp and Michelin Have The Same Taste In New York Restaurants” (Please excuse the messiness. I didn’t feel like spending my evening winnowing out the hyperlinks):
…Yelp and Michelin largely agree on the best restaurants.
Michelin revealed its 2015 ratings for New York on Tuesday. I took each restaurant on the Michelin list and looked up its Yelp rating. I also looked up Yelp ratings for restaurants that have lost their Michelin stars since Michelin first published a New York guide in November 2005. This serves as a control group for “Michelin-esque” restaurants that are no longer performing up to the guide’s standards.2
Firstly — (VORB is an aggregate of Yelp review volume and quality and Michelin ratings.):
…There’s a reasonably strong correlation between Yelp and Michelin ratings. Of current and former Michelin-starred restaurants, those with the highest VORB scores are Le Bernardin (28.7), Eleven Madison Park (28.2), Gramercy Tavern (27.7),Daniel (26.6), Per Se (25.9) and Jean-Georges (23.3). Four of those six restaurants have three Michelin stars, the top rating. The exceptions are Daniel, which was just demoted to two Michelin stars, and Gramercy Tavern, which has one.
By contrast, most of the restaurants with the lowest VORB scores have since lost their Michelin stars, (and in some cases have also closed). The bottom five are the defunct Vong and the still-open Laut, Pok Pok NY, Lan Shengand A Voce Columbus. Mind you, these aren’t the worst restaurants in New York. I’d personally vouch for a couple of them as being pretty good. But the standard is high, and Yelpers feel they’re closer to average than to the top tier…
…The restaurants to have lost their Michelin stars have 3.83 Yelp stars on average, barely better than the average for all restaurants citywide. Each additional Michelin star translates to about 0.2 additional Yelp stars. The one-starred Michelin restaurants have an average Yelp rating of 4.02 stars. The Michelin two-star restaurants have a Yelp rating of 4.25. The Michelin three-star restaurants average 4.47 Yelp stars.
That’s what I found the most interesting — relatively lowish Yelp reviews tend to foreshadow the loss of Michelin stars.
Outside of the canonical European cuisines (French, Italian) and “new American” food,12 Michelin seems to struggle. Thai restaurants and Indian restaurants, for example, have often won Michelin stars only to lose them a couple of years later. It’s almost as though Michelin is cycling through representatives of these cuisines at random — putting forth some effort to increase the diversity of its list but not going to great lengths to identify the best examples.
Which… I don’t know… The list can’t be all European or they’d never hear the end of it. I’d like to think the Michelin reviewers just couldn’t come to a consensus due to lack of familiarity, but who knows? And maybe I’m cynical thinking that maybe they’re cynical..
I’d assume that the Yelp reviews are influenced at least somewhat by the Michelin rank, but maybe that street runs the other way too? Michelin would have a hard time convincing diners of the authoritative quality of their guide if they favored restaurants unpopular with the unwashed crowdsourcing masses.
Anyways, lots of food for thought.