Michelin star winners are ‘not about being pretentious’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Star attraction: sites listed in the Michelin Guide say they bring in visitors from all around the world
Star attraction: sites listed in the Michelin Guide say they bring in visitors from all around the world

Related tags: Michelin

Operators behind pubs listed in the Michelin Guide say their sites challenge the preconceptions of gastropubs as stuffy and inaccessible, and they are excited to see more pubs recognised.

A Michelin star brings pubs international acclaim and opens the door to new demographics of potential customers.

The Angel at Hetton, North Yorkshire, was one of two new pubs added to the guide this year, bringing the total of pubs recognised by Michelin to 19.

Manager Johanna Wignall said the pub saw an immediate uptake in interest on social media as well as calls for bookings.

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“My phone has been going bonkers,” she said: “The initial impact has been a flurry of bookings from people who maybe hadn't heard heard of us and have now and want to come and try [chef-patron] Michael [Wignall’s] food.”

Posh food 

It was exciting to see Michelin included more and more pubs in their guide as customers’ perceptions about gastropubs being formal and stuffy are shifting, she said. 

Wignall explained: “I suppose we were a little, not worried, but there's a slight concern that if you're a pub, a Michelin star might put people off and they might be scared by it: ‘It's posh food and we don't want posh food’. 

“But actually it's still a pub, with very, very good food, but it's still a warm Yorkshire welcome, it's not stuffy or formal, it's very casual and informal.

“Michelin is diverse, with lots more pubs getting stars. I think they realise that not everyone wants a very formal lunch or dinner – people want to enjoy good food but relax by a fireplace.”

The Masons Arms, in Knowstone, Devon, received its star in 2006 and has seen customers from across the world pay a visit citing the award as their reason.

Mark Dodson, who runs the site alongside his wife Sarah (pictured), said its inclusion on the list had opened up a new demographic of pubgoers as well as raising the standard of job applicants. 

Mark and Sarah Dodson

Recruitment boost 

He explained: “I'm not looking to recruit at the moment but a Michelin star certainly brings you a certain calibre of applicant. On a recruitment front, it does help for sure. 

“We do a lot of work with the local colleges and they want to have prestige, they want to have Michelin-starred chefs.”

As the site was awarded its star in 2006 – before online booking platforms and in the  infancy of social media – Dodson said he could not quantify the impact the star has had on business.

However, he said the pub’s retention of the star was still a yearly boost to staff morale despite its long-standing inclusion. 

Dodson said: “It is a prestigious award and we are very, very pleased to have retained it.

“It gives everyone a big boost, the whole team, and even the village that we are living in.”

Staff at the pub are keen to protect their status on the guide and continue to meet its high standards.

Dodson added: “You feel pressure every day. You can't ever take your foot off the pedal, it is constant reassessment, moving-forward and reinventing.”

Welcoming atmosphere

James Mackenzie operates the Pipe & Glass Inn, South Dalton, East Yorkshire, which has been included in the guide for more than a decade. 

Although local excitement and attention in recent years hasn’t been as substantial as previous years, the pub team fears complacency. 

Mackenzie said: “When you first get it, there's a hell of a lot of attention around it, especially in this area because we were the first to get a Michelin star in East Yorkshire.

“The general public and local media perhaps sometimes takes it for granted that you just keep it year on year, as a matter of course. 

“After a few years, I think some people don't pay as much attention to it. The star has never been our main focus – it's about having a busy business with happy customers who want to return.

“It's not about being pretentious with having a star. It's about being welcoming and realising what people want when they walk through the door and, ultimately, giving them a first-class experience. Our team delivers that.”

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