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Google Acquires Zagat Survey

Zagat Survey, one of the restaurant industry’s most influential and trusted user-generated reviews, has been acquired by Google. The news was announced by both companies last September 8.

Zagat is considered as a top-notch guide, having consistently delighted consumers with their remarkable range of reviews, insights and ratings, while permitting customers everywhere to locate extraordinary (as well as ordinary) experiences near their vicinity and all over the world. Founded over 32 years ago by couple Nina and Tim Zagat, the company has established a credible, trusted and endearing brand which operates 13 categories (including restaurants, hotels, shopping, nightlife, music, zoos, theaters, movies, airlines and gold courses) and in more than a hundred cities.

People have grown to rely on reviews in the recent years. They have stopped depending on product advertisements alone, and realized that they need to balance the information they get from paid commercials by looking at other people’s opinions, too. If the activity entails not just money, but time and effort as well, people check out the establishment’s user reviews first. And this is where Zagat excels.

The merger is something that everyone will keep an eye on, as Google and Zagat are both innovators. We all know that Google has been a prominent site where people find content from other sources, and the most popular one at that, while Zagat Survey has been one of the pioneers in user-generated content (UGC)—collecting restaurant reviews and recommendations from their friends, mainly about the menu, ambiance, price and the service brought about by the restaurant’s servers in quality aprons–calculating and distributing the ratings before the World Wide Web even existed. Their legendary pocket-sized guides were already “mobile” even before the word “mobile” meant electronics gadgets. Their company website, Zagat.com, is also listed as among the top 3,500 most visited websites in the United States, as reported by Alexa.com, a known authority in internet traffic statistics.

It has been reported at the New York Times back in 2008 that Zagat was up in the market for a while, while Google was reported to have tried to negotiate with Yelp for a possible buy-out back in 2009. Now they came across each other.

“Google is the primary place people go to when searching for information and we believe that it is an ideal home for our reviews,” Zagat wrote in its own announcement. “Google’s management and ours are one in our faith in user-generated content, and in our dedication to accuracy and impartiality in reviewing establishments. We are united in our intent to provide customers with information — the necessary ones that allow consumers to make informed choices on where to travel, eat and shop.”

The move was said to be part of the internet search giant’s effort to provide more local content in the United States. Over the past years, Google has made it clear to the public that it believes that local services are essential to the web user. This acquisition is proof of that – Zagat is the perfect local platform, and is something that Google can utilize to strengthen its own plans for localized content and local advertising.

Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Google’s Local, Maps and Location Services, said that “Zagat will be a foundation of Google’s local offering,” which, when interpreted by restaurant industry experts, probably means that when a user search a restaurant by name, Zagat summaries will surface, along with other Google-hosted reviews. And that’s probably a good thing.