Google Acquires Zagat To Flesh Out Local Reviews

Google has acquired Zagat, one of the most well-known names in restaurant reviews. Zagat is best known for its small guidebooks (the dead-tree sort) that offer reviews and recommendations on restaurants around the world. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Zagat was founded back in 1979, and, according to the company, now includes ratings and reviews submitted by 350,000 ‘surveyors’ — its own consumers submit content for use in future guidebooks. In recent years the company has moved its reviews online as well, and it offers mobile applications for the top smartphone platforms. Much of their online content was locked behind a paywall for some time, but Zagat relaunched its website in Feburary to include far more free content.

In 2008 Zagat reportedly put itself up for sale with an asking price of around $200 million, but subsequently took itself off the market (at least, until now).

The move is part of Google’s mission to improve its local products, which are now run by Google VP Marissa Mayer (Mayer has long been one of the most public faces at the company, and was head of Search for a decade).

Google had previously been in talks to acquire Yelp in late 2009, but those discussions fell apart and Yelp walked away from some $500 million. Since then, the relationship between Google and Yelp has been tenuous, as Google borrowed liberally from Yelp’s database of reviews to flesh out its Google Places pages. Google has toned down the practice in the last few months, and is now clearly looking to boost the number of reviews it can call its own using features like Hotpot and through deals. Hence today’s acquisition.

From the Google blog:

So, today, I’m thrilled that Google has acquired Zagat. 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.

With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat more than 32 years ago, Zagat has established a trusted and well-loved brand the world over, operating in 13 categories and more than 100 cities. The Zagats have demonstrated their ability to innovate and to do so with tremendous insight. Their surveys 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. Their iconic pocket-sized guides with paragraphs summarizing and “snippeting” sentiment were “mobile” before “mobile” involved electronics. Today, Zagat provides people with democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings.