Google Acquisition Finds A Place For Zagat


Google has bought Zagat for an undisclosed sum, marking a new expansion into local business reviews

Google has purchased Zagat, a 32-year-old company that aggregates critiques of restaurants, nightspots, hotels and other attractions, from more than 350,000 reviewers around the world. Terms of the deal, which was announced via corporate blog post, were not disclosed.

The acquisition should give the search engine company a shot of instant credibility after it failed to acquire local review powerhouse Yelp in 2009 and group coupon provider Groupon in 2010. Google went on to relaunch its local search product as Google Places, significantly improving the service with its own recommendation engine and reviews.

Places To Go

Google Places has nowhere near the local review database of Zagat, which offers its famous 30-point scale for restaurants and other establishments in more than 100 cities. Consumers critique everything from the lighting, ambience and service to, naturally, the food presentation and taste.

Originally, the company relied on pocket-sized print guides with review summaries before striking deals with check-in service Foursquare and restaurant recommendation engine Foodspotting. Zagat also integrated with online reservation service provider OpenTable and Savored for restaurant deals. The company also created new “views” that let users compare restaurants side-by-side using interactive charts and statistics.

Now when users search the Google Places local search service for info on restaurants and other businesses, Zagat will be providing the consumer opinions.

“Moving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering – delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world,” Marissa Mayer, Google vice president of local, maps and location services , wrote in the announcement blog post.

Mayer added that the surveys co-founders Tim and Nina Zagat created for restaurants “may be one of the earliest forms of UGC (user-generated content) – gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the Internet as we know it today even existed”.

Mutually Agreed Goals

“After spending time with Google senior management discussing our mutual goals, we know they share our belief in user-generated content and our commitment to accuracy and fairness in providing users with the information needed to make smart decisions about where to eat, shop and travel,” the Zagats wrote.

The Zagats (pictured) vowed to remain active in the business as co-chairs to help maximise Zagat’s product quality and growth.

The Zagat acquisition continues a strong trend at Google, which has made several commerce-related purchases this year. The company recently grabbed local deals provider Dealmap, loyalty card provider PunchD and – just last week – digital coupon provider Zave Networks.

Google wants to carve a big piece of, if not own, the local search and commerce markets, where Groupon and Yelp lurk. Both rivals are expected to go public this year.

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