7 years after acquiring the now 39-year-old restaurant review company Zagat, Google is offloading it onto The Infatuation, a young up-and-comer in the food review space that leverages branded hashtags and polished Instagram pictures to grow their readership.
Zagat’s time at Google hasn’t exactly been a raging success, and as other review companies like Yelp lap them in both traffic and relevance, time will tell whether The Infatuation’s social media savvy is enough to resuscitate the aging brand.
The 4-decade saga of Zagat
Created in 1979 by husband and wife Tim and Nina Zagat from a 1-page restaurant survey of 200 of their friends, the company was once held as one of the most reliable sources of restaurant reviews.
This was about 25 years before Yelp existed, putting Zagat well ahead of its time in the world of crowdsourced, amateur restauraunt reviews. By ‘05, the Zagats were rolling out annual books of reviews for 70 cities from a pool of 250k respondents.
Unfortunately, their offline success didn’t translate to the web
Zagat put their online content behind a paywall, crippling their SEO performance and allowing Yelp to step in as the de facto source of free online reviews (in 2010, Zagat had about 570k monthly visitors, compared to Yelp’s 9.4m).
In 2008, the company put itself up for sale for $200m, and after sitting on the market for 3 years, sold to Google for about $151m in 2011.
The black sheep
In 2012, Google integrated Zagat into their search results, made the site free, announced plans to “Zagatize the world,” and brought many former Zagat employees on as contractors.
But, when Marissa Mayer (the then Google VP who spearheaded the deal) left for Yahoo, Zagat was left a ship without rudder, and by the end of 2012, many of Google’s Zagat contractors were informed that their contracts would not be renewed.
For the past several years, Zagat has remained an afterthought for the tech giant. But The Infatuation pledges to revamp the company’s tech presence, so this relic of a bygone era may not go the way of your family’s “takeout menu drawer” after all.