Except for millennials Zagat was the essential guide to for reliable restaurant ratings by people who like to dine out.Choosing a restaurant from the printed editions was fun and a little quirky-a 30 point rating system – but the guide was usually spot on in its rankings and comments. If you happen to have a copy for the most part it still is.
About 6 years ago the corporate strategists at Google decided that Zagat could be brought into the digital age and acquired it for $125 million.BTW the chief architect of the integration of Zagat with Google was none other than the glorious and notorious Marisa Mayer who left Google to become the highly compensated CEO of Yahoo in 2011. Her mission: turn Yahoo around and increase its value. She brought some of her Google crew to Yahoo which left Zagat languishing for years trying to figure out how to integrate it with Google’s many location functions and maps. Many say she let Yahoo languish only to be bought out on the cheap by the faceless corporate giant Verizon.
Ah, but we digress.
In the years of all this languishing the digital dining guide upstarts such as Yelp, Foursquare, Open Table, Trip Advisor, thrived. Although it operated an android app Zagat remained rooted the in the printed book realm and lost a lot of ground.
- a simplified rating system of a 1 -5 scale for food, decor, and service. You can now rate a place in 1/10th decimal increments 4.2,3.7,4.9 etc. (wish Yelp would do this).
- ratings are now open to everyone for small the price of an email address so no doubt the ratings will become less reliable. To balance this out Google/Zagat maintains a staff of professional editors.
- The new app is much more in tune with finding a place in the moment, based on your location. It provides instant top ratings for whatever type of establishment you may be looking for or wish to be guided to. It is very slick and has a much nicer magazine like feel than some the other apps currently out there.
- The website has all the venerable features of the printed guide and it is graphically beautiful and easy to use it. So if you are an old school guidebook user it is so worth it to use the website.
The main negative for the latest version of Zagat is that doesn’t yet have the geographic reach. It is only available for most of the very large north American cities. (A more few to come in Europe we hear). While Zagat geo locates with restaurants listed by google and googlers – which is a very nice feature, most of these, are not Zagat rated leaving the user in a fend for themselves mode and at a much greater risk for a dining disappointment.
So it appears that Zagat/Google is late to the party and may have missed the millenials. At this point they are unlikely to get their attention, even with this great app and website.
Too bad because had this happened 5 years ago Zagat would not be playing catch-up and would already be considered a big part of the digital multiverse of the foodboom.