AA Restaurant Guide Rosettes❀ Vs. Michelin Guide Stars*- The Big Difference Blog by Frank Davie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th August 2016

The translation between the AA Restaurant Guide rosette, the UK exclusive accolade, and the toughly sought after international award that is, the Michelin star, is almost like trying to convert cat language into Arabic – the two rarely seem to match up.

For example, two Michelin starred restaurant Hibiscus (now closed - read more) in Mayfair, London holds two Michelin stars and five AA Restaurant Guide rosettes, while The French, in Manchester enjoys just one less rosette and not a single star. Doesn’t the Good Food Guide’s 17th best restaurant in the UK deserve at least one star? Not even one? The answer isn’t clear, but it would appear that the AA Restaurant Guide and the Michelin guide don’t agree with each other.

Whether it’s simply a culinary rivalry between the two firms or a crude misunderstanding of the standards of modern British dining, the two prized award schemes are scattered across restaurants and hotels across the UK with no grounded form of correlation in the slightest. The two just don’t match up. In spite of their difference, these two awards are what every head chef in the UK is sacrificing their sleep over.

The AA Restaurant Guide Rosette 

DSCF1080-1.jpgAh, the AA Rosette. Founded in 1912, the standard is high yet inconsistent and ranges from one to five. Only 1 in 10 restaurants achieve as much as one rosette. The gap between one or two of these compared to a Michelin star is massive, but there even seems to be a slight rift within the AA’s own system.

Restaurants with award (UK) (correct at time of publishing):

1 AA ❀ restaurants: 883 (43.68%)

2 AA ❀ restaurants: 902 (44.77%)


3 AA ❀ restaurants: 189 (9.27%)

4 AA ❀ restaurants: 37 (1.83%)

5 AA ❀ restaurants: 9 (0.45%)

Total: 20203822343_orig.jpg

Restaurants with three rosettes with a star: 70/189

Restaurants with 4-5 rosettes with a star: 40/46

The evidence above highlights that somewhere between three and five rosettes usually warrants a Michelin star.  However, the difference between two rosettes and three rosettes is menacing, to say the least. With 2020 restaurants in the UK under the rosette umbrella, less than 12% of these endow three rosettes or more, with 89% holding merely one or two. Astonishing! 89% of AA approved restaurants have no more than two rosettes.

Three rosette restaurants are very close to the standards of a Michelin star. 

Michelin Guide

The French tire company published its first guide in 1900 with the goal of increasing the demand for cars in France, and thus, tire production. Without a doubt, to be featured in the Michelin guide is a truly fanatical and extremely influential achievement for any restaurant in the world. The effects of gaining or losing a Michelin star is far more drastic than to lose or gain a rosette, with just 169 (correct at time of publishing) establishments in the UK having made the cut compared to the AA’s 2020 restaurants. So the difference in quality is candid.


Michelin Starred Restaurants (UK) (correct at time of publishing):

1 Michelin Star: 143 (84.62%)

2 Michelin Star: (13.61%)

3 Michelin Star: 3 (1.78%)

Total: 169

Michelin Starred restaurants with no rosettes: 31/169

Michelin-starred food is fine dining using modern cooking techniques with an edge on creativity and imagination.

It’s sad to see that again from the data above, there is a huge jump between one Michelin star and the two stars above. Conceivably, it’s the UK’s inability to reach and sustain that formidable level of dining that much of the rest of Europe and America have boasted for decades. The demand for fine dining in the UK isn’t soaring, with faster, healthier food taking its stride.

The catch is this also: rosettes and stars cost money. Not simply the fee to be featured in the precious guides, but to fund the driving force required to reach that level of culinary perfection. The staff, the produce, the physical dining area itself and as such the location of the restaurant need to be on point for an inspector to even step into the door of the establishment. It’s preposterous to think that Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin starred masterpiece in London doesn’t have a single rosette, in spite of any circumstances.salmon-herbs-lortolan-reading-restaurants.jpg

The concept behind these superlative accolades is phenomenal, but the system is wrong, nearly corrupt. It’s almost like presenting someone with a trophy and asking them to pay for the engraving costs. It just isn’t logical. Needless to say, the Michelin Guide occupies far more prestigious substance. The rosette, trapped in the UK, seems lost in its ability to consistently judge restaurants and hotels. In my own experience, even the standard of two rosette restaurants is wildly sporadic. The difference in quality is massive. With over 900 of them all over the UK, it’s no wonder there is a distinct divide in the quality of these places.

All in all, Michelin and the AA are two companies in the car business with one big foot and a closed eye in the hospitality industry. The AA is effective in recognising those restaurants that advocate fine dining, but aren’t quite ready to take on that first Michelin star. The International Michelin guide is the globalised version of this judgmental process, and does better at recognising the more elite restaurants out there. God, I need a Burger King.

A blog from an erratically ambitious chef with one foot in the hospitality industry and the other desperately trying to run away. You can read more of Frank's blog posts here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th August 2016

AA Restaurant Guide Rosettes❀ Vs. Michelin Guide Stars*- The Big Difference Blog by Frank Davie