Quite a lot, according to a New York Times article, which summarized a number studies of the cost of meal in Paris. Apparently, getting a Michelin star from the famed review organization increases a restaurant's prices an average of percent. That has contributed to an inflationary spiral in fine Parisian dining that has seen prices increase by almost 217 percent, after inflation, since 1950. Meanwhile, prices in more prosaic eateries actually dropped in real terms over the same period.
A big reason for the price hikes? Those coveted stars not only draw diners, but increased credit lines, allowing Michelin-starred restaurateurs to charge up the max on dècor and ambiance. The tonier environments (along with the Michelin imprimatur) then make jacking up menu prices easier.
Now, this wouldn't necessarily be a terrible thing if the ratings actually pointed diners to the best meals. But there seems to be a growing disconnect between a Michelin rating and customer satisfaction (at least as measured by direct-input tabulators like the Zagat Guide to Paris). There are even whispers (abetted by a recent tell-all book by a former Michelin inspector) that the rating service plays favorites with its old boys network of established eateries.
Unfortunately, that is unlikely to dissuade the biggest contributors to the problem: out-of-towners—especially Americans—who resort to Michelin ratings when looking for the best restaurants to patronize.
So, how ironic is that? Those food barbarians from the land of McDonald's serving as enablers to overpriced French restaurants.