2021 Michelin Stars Announced as Portuguese Restaurants Struggle to Survive

The 2021 Michelin stars for Spain and Portugal were announced on December 14 — but amid increasing COVID-19 restrictions, even the most prestigious Portuguese restaurants are fighting to stay afloat.

The announcement comes at the end of a year that has brought unprecedented challenges to the restaurant industry.

A total of 28 restaurants in Portugal were recognized by the Michelin Guide: seven of them with two stars and the rest with one.

Two Lisbon restaurants, 100 Maneiras and Eneko Lisboa, were awarded their first ever Michelin star.

Chef Ljubomir Stanisic, who’s behind 100 Maneiras, has drawn media attention over the past few months for participating in a hunger strike to protest Portugal’s restrictions on the restaurant industry.

As reported by Forbes, this year’s awards were based on slightly different criteria than usual, taking into account changes in the global restaurant industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, Gwendal Poullennec, director of the Michelin Guides, announced a new digital strategy and highlighted the organization’s support for the industry.

But as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on tourism and hospitality, this support may not be enough for Portugal’s award-winning establishments to survive. According to a recent Público article, “A [Michelin] star can help, but not save, a business.”

Público reported that many of the country’s most renowned chefs are struggling to keep their restaurants up and running amid the increased restrictions of Portugal’s second state of emergency.

In the world of fine dining, the general trend has mirrored the rest of the restaurant industry. After initial closures in March, April, and May, many places reopened in June and saw steadily increasing business through August.

But as a second wave of COVID-19 cases started to rise in the autumn, many of these world-class restaurants faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Reservations were canceled, dining rooms emptied, and weekend service became virtually nonexistent.

As the state of emergency stretches on, Portugal’s Michelin-starred chefs and restaurateurs are now holding out hope for a rebound, just like the rest of the industry.

Notably, UberEats took advantage of the Michelin Guide’s recent announcement to launch a promotional offer in Portugal.

The app highlighted Michelin-starred chefs José Avillez, Henrique Sá Pessoa, Joachim Koerper, Sergi Arola, Eneko Atxa, and Rui Paula with a promotional offer for free delivery from their restaurants through December 20.

UberEats and other food delivery apps have drawn criticism for the high fees they charge to restaurants, forcing yet another financial burden on eateries that are fighting to keep their doors open.

Illustration by Bogdan Kamuta.
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