In this age where information has been made accessible to us anytime and anywhere we want, we have become quite dependent on consumer reviews. We have ceased to rely on product advertisements alone, but have learned to balance the information we get from these paid commercials and propaganda by looking at other people’s opinions, too. We don’t mind spending on things that only require money from us– but if the activity entails not just our money but also our precious time and valuable effort, we make it a point to check out the establishment’s reviews first. This holds true for movies, books, hotels and yes, restaurants. One popular review organization is the Zagat Survey.
The Zagat Survey was founded on the basic principle that collective scrutiny conducted by actual consumers make up more reliable reviews than those given by only a specific group of critics. It gives customer-oriented details of people’s choices for the best places to eat, drink, play and stay – giving consumers the power to make informed decisions on matters that they need to spend money, time and effort on.
The Zagat Guide started in 1979, with the idea borne out of a couple’s search for reliable reviews for leisurely establishments. After hearing their friends talk about their dissatisfaction over a major publication’s unreliable restaurant review, Nina and Tim Zagat were prompted to create their own survey. They started by asking the opinions of their friends, which led to 200 reviews and ratings for 100 important restaurants that year. The Zagat Guide came to be an immediate hit, and was instantly dubbed as “the gastronomic bible” by The Wall Street Journal. What started out as a regular guide to restaurants in New York City was soon embraced by over a hundred countries globally, covering a variety of informative resources for lifestyle, recreational pursuits, and various areas of interest.
Now, 32 years later, Zagat Survey represents a larger circle of influence with more than 350,000 consumers taking active part in its updated surveys. As a way of giving thanks for taking part in their featured surveys, participants are treated to rewards and freebies, like a complimentary Zagat guide, free subscription to Zagat.com or tickets to various sweepstakes offered throughout the year.
How does it work? The survey starts by collecting an array of opinions and survey data, and then reconstructs these into numerical ratings and written reviews. Ratings are centered on a 30-point scale, where scores are awarded for various restaurant categories such as meal selections on great menus and menu covers, interior design, quality of service given by their apron-clad wait staff, popularity, and value for money. Scores of 0-9 are equivalent to poor to fair, 10-15 is fair to good, 16-19 is good to very good, 20-25 is very good to excellent, and 26-30 is extraordinary to perfection. The guide also offers discussion boards that allow customers to share their individual experiences and their personal opinions.
Zagat Survey prides itself with trustworthy and dependable information, so they are quite careful in dealing with their surveyors and editors. They make sure that only truthful and objective ratings are posted in their reviews, and any dishonest evaluation leads to the establishment’s immediate removal from the Zagat list.
They had been careful not to tarnish their 30-year-old reputation, but just like the other restaurant guides, they have had their share of criticisms, too. Most say that despite the fact that the surveys they release are based on real people’s opinions, the views have been filtered and are not as raw as it’s expected to be. Since the reviews come out as a collection that is considered as a whole, one can’t evaluate if he could agree with the reviewer, as there’s no one who is held responsible for the review. They have also been accused of grade inflations several times, although the people behind the guide strongly deny the allegation.