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Google buys Zagat restaurant guides

Google has bought Zagat Survey restaurant guides for an undisclosed sum but which could be in the region of US$200m.

The move is a bid to increase Google’s hold on the local marketplace – the guides, founded in 1979, rely on customer reviews of restaurants in some 100 countries from 350,000 diners a year.

As well as its published pocket-sized Guides – which include an app – Zagat also owns a wine club, Zagat Wine, which was not part of the deal.

Google vice-president for maps and local services, Marissa Meyer, said Zagat would become ‘a cornerstone of our local offering’.

Decanter.com understands that founders Tim and Nina Zagat put their company on the market in 2008 for US$200m but found no buyers.

The deal has given rise to a good deal of speculation about Zagat’s traction in the restaurant reviews market.

The Wall Street Journal said Google was ‘building a powerful array of local commerce assets [which could] crimp emerging Web stars like Yelp, Groupon and OpenTable.’

Zagat, which ‘distills user feedback into a single trusted review’, was more trustworthy than other user-review sites such as Yelp, the paper said.

At the same time, some critics cast doubt on Google’s ability to maintain Zagat’s standards

But others suggested such standards were not copper-bottomed.

‘While many articles about the acquisition tout Zagat’s trusted reviews, their books simply compiled surveys filled out by nearly anyone,’ Scott Reitz in the Dallas Observer said.

He cited a Washington Post blog written in 2009 which criticised the ‘random’ nature of the reviews and listed a catalogue of errors and inconsistencies.

The blog was entitled, ‘Dear Zagat, A hearty thanks for your 30 years of service. Now go away’.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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