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What is a Restaurant Guide?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A restaurant guide is a publication which lists restaurants in a particular area, such as a city. These publications are usually updated annually to reflect new information, such as restaurant closures, changed addresses, and new restaurants. There are a number of sources for restaurant guides, including local tourism bureaus, airports, and bookstores. People can also order them online if they want to prepare for a trip.

Several restaurant guides such as the Zagat Survey, Michelin Guide, and Harden's, are well known guides with a loyal following. Numerous other companies publish restaurant guides for the same areas covered by these guidebooks, in addition to other regions. Other restaurant guides are included in guidebooks for travelers and community publications aimed at visitors and tourists. A restaurant guide is often free or low cost to make it appealing to visitors

A typical entry in a restaurant guide includes the name of a restaurant, the location, the contact information, and the hours. The guide usually includes a brief description of the type of cuisine offered at the restaurant, and a rating which is intended to indicate the expense of an average meal at the restaurant. Most restaurant guides also include quality ratings, which people can use to determine where they want to eat. Some may mention several menu items by name for readers who want to get a feel for the restaurant.

In the case of the Michelin Guide, the ratings system is famous; getting a Michelin Star is a tremendous honor for a restaurant. All restaurant guides use more or less the same system for their ratings, sending representatives into the restaurant, usually several times, to eat the food and take notes about the quality of the food, the service, and the atmosphere. The Zagat Survey relies on ratings provided by hundreds of thousands of diners who submit their own ratings and reviews. When a restaurant guide is updated, the ratings may be adjusted as well, especially if the publishers have been notified that the ownership, service, or standards at the restaurant have changed.

The organization of a restaurant guide varies. Some are organized by neighborhood, city, or district, so that people can find all of the restaurants in a particular location and compare their ratings to determine where to eat. Others may be arranged by the type of cuisine offered, or by the ratings. Restaurant guides can also include information about farmers' markets and grocery stores in a food guide which is designed to orient visitors who want to cook for themselves.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By chrisinbama — On Oct 20, 2010

@wesley91: The easiest way for my husband and I to find the best restaurants when traveling is to enter the area we will be visiting on google and get a list of the top restaurant guides that they recommend for that specific area.

By wesley91 — On Oct 20, 2010

What is the fastest way to find the best restaurants in Knoxville, TN?

By momothree — On Oct 20, 2010

@christym: Thanks for the info!

By christym — On Oct 20, 2010

@momothree: Yes, many of the more upscale restaurants have online restaurant guides, as well as menus and pricing. They also usually offer a link to make online reservations.

By momothree — On Oct 20, 2010

Are restaurant guides available online as well?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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