Google today acquired the iconic user-reviewed restaurant guide, Zagat, adding food fodder to its Google Offers and another feather to its growing cap as purveyor of all things digital.
Tim and Nina Zagat, the husband-and-wife team whose 30-point scale and quotation-mark-happy reviews franchise is the Bible to millions of foodies, shoppers and travelers, will stay involved as co-chairs.
“We couldn’t be happier to see our baby placed into such good hands and are looking forward to being Googlers in the years ahead,” they stated in a letter on zagat.com, which "reviews" Google on its homepage today in celebration of the mega-deal.
The deal, which also enhances Google Maps and local search results, was announced by Googler Marissa Mayer, VP of Local, Maps and Location Services at Google, who wrote about Zagat in a blog post:
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 a democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings.
Zagat has faced competition from burgeoning free recommendation sites, such as Yelp and Foursquare, whose digital tendrils are deeply mobile and location-based.
Three years ago Zagat hired Goldman Sachs as an adviser in an effort to sell the brand, but stopped the process six months later. The deal with Google was advised by the Peter J. Solomon Company and Allen & Company.
It’s a good fit in the view of GigaOm: “Perhaps Google can get a little more recommendation cachet while also helping bring Zagat onto the web more widely. Zagat also has ties into the physical network of restaurants and local entertainment spots across many of its categories, which will help Google connect with local businesses for its advertising efforts and even daily deal efforts like Google Offers.”
“It’s an incredibly strategic acquisition,” comments Yuupon.com founder Mary Song. “Zagat has high quality, rich content. They’ve got independent reviews and relationships with all kinds of restaurants and small businesses. No doubt Groupon will be looking over its shoulder to see not just Living Social, but now Google as well.”
Or as Mayer tweeted (in rhyme) with the hashtag #gogooglelocal: “Delightful deal done, Zagat and Google now one, foodies have more fun!”