In a paper called “Stardust Over Paris,” two economists, Olivier Gergaud from the University of Reims and Vincenzo Verardi at the Free University of Brussels, and a mathematician, Linett Montaño Guzmán, looked at how much a Michelin star — a special designation of dining quality — is worth.
Receiving a Michelin star increases prices in a Parisian restaurant by 20 percent, controlling for measures of quality, décor and location. Michelin-starred restaurants in fancy hotels, or in areas with other Michelin-starred restaurants, also have higher prices, again adjusting for quality. Diners are paying more to eat in fine or prestigious surroundings, whether or not the food is better. One gastronomy expert, speaking in Le Nouvel Observateur, noted, “Gaining a Michelin star ensures that your banker will be kind to you.”
For those who hold the food as their main concern, the researchers offer a way forward. Dr. Verardi and Dr. Gergaud have built an index for overpriced and underpriced restaurants, relative to their food. They use the Zagat Survey to Parisian restaurants — whose popularity rankings are generated by diners’ reports, not critics — to provide an independent measure of customer satisfaction, which is then compared with price.