Back before children, my wife and I used to love going to restaurants and I actually wrote quite a bit here about food. After children, food becomes a lot more utilitarian for parents and most of my writing here is now about politics, music and culture. We don’t get to eat out nearly as much as we did for many reasons. I’d like to write more about food since I still love it. But it doesn’t fire me up as it used to.
But this NY Times item piqued my interest. I used to buy Zagat guides and even more importantly use them. But then I read Mimi Sheraton’s critique of the Franco-centric fix in most Zagat surveys and I started thinking for myself about the quality of the guides. I even wrote to the editor of the Seattle guide providing some feedback about a few of the odd ratings I found for several local restaurants (I never got a response–natch). I got tired of the stupid inanity of some of the review text. And the wild exaggeration of some ratings just made me scratch my head in a what-were-they-thinking kind of way.
When I used to travel to NY more, I found the NY Times restaurant guide much more reliable and useful. But of course, it only covers New York and was last published in 2004.Before the Zagat website became subscription based, I used to contribute my own reviews to it. But the idea that Zagat was such a critical online resource that I would pay to use it really irked me. In fact, in hindsight moving the site from free to subscription based seems foolish as a free site would have exponentially higher readership than the current website with its 1.5-million members (still nothing to sneeze at). This, in turn would have hugely increased the company’s valuation for the purposes of this sale.
I’m sure there are businesses out there who can justify reasons to buy Zagat. And the Zagats will be handsomely repaid if they earn $200 million from a sale of their business as the Times estimates. But to me Zagat is so yesterday. I bet the new owners will do away with the subscription feature and return the site to a free one. But that will be a little late for me.
How do you know that their website only has $1.5M users?
Richard Silverstein says
That’s 1.5 million users. Read the NYT article linked in the post. That’s where the number comes from.