As the 100th edition of the Michelin restaurant guide hits the shelves, a fascinating insight into what lies behind the French tyres manufacturer’s appetite for publishing the gastronomic Bible appears in the Financial Times.
It was first published in 1900 to help motorists find a good restaurant – along with a garage to change their tyres – while they were tootling round the French countryside.
Each edition courts some kind of controversy as they award Michelin stars for the best restaurants around the world. But as Paul Betts writes it’s tyres not truffles that keep the Michelin company wheels turning.
‘For Michelin, the guidebooks business is not so much a profit centre or a vehicle for diversification as essentially a prime, original marketing tool. Every year Michelin sells some 1.2m guidebooks around the world. That is pretty impressive, but it still accounts for only about 0.5 per cent of the company’s annual sales. And the purpose of the guides is not primarily to help increase earnings. The aim is essentially to promote the Michelin brand and its core product: tyres.
‘Japan is a good example of this strategy. The Japanese are mad about food and the Michelin Tokyo restaurant and hotel guide have greatly enhanced the company’s visibility in the country. Indeed, Mr Rollier (Michel Rollier, senior managing partneer of the family-controlled Michelin tyre company) acknowledges that in Japan Michelin is probably better known for its guides and restaurant stars than its bread-and-butter tyre business – and this in the home country of Bridgestone, one of Michelin’s main competitors in the tyre industry.’
Denna Bowman, etyres Head Office