“If you want to get a sense of how good a guide is, look up the places that you eat at all the time and see how they’re reviewed. If the review is way off, then it’s probably not the guide for you.” I received this great advice from one of the founders of the Zagat Guide, Tim Zagat. We had a chance to discuss the new Chicago guide and recent dining trends in the city.
Not surprisingly, diners are more sensitive to prices in this economy. According to Zagat, 41% are eating out less and another 38% are making choices based on price. When people do eat out, they want value for their money and are shopping around for deals or rewarding places that appreciate them as customers. Zagat has also noticed an increase in awareness of green issues. People are more cognizant of mercury levels in fish and are choosing tap water in increasing numbers. However, only 30% of those surveyed sought out restaurants with a local/organic/sustainable mission.
We talked for a while about the choice between paid content versus free reviews elsewhere, and Zagat maintains that their competitive advantage is still in the quality of their reviews, the editing that occurs and the concise results they deliver. While he acknowledged the competition in this space, he felt they remained a trusted source because they don’t accept restaurant advertising money, their reviewers are not in the restaurant industry, and the company has been around for over 30 years. According to Zagat, the print versions of their publications haven’t seen that much competition from the Internet. He thinks people prefer the tactile sense of print.
After this long in the business, I was curious how he stayed passionate about what he does, “I go out two nights a week to look at restaurants.” The first night to check out the space and menus, and the second night to eat. He also stays active with different projects and pushing the Zagat Guide into the mobile world. The Zagat Guide is currently the best selling app in the food/travel category for the iPhone/iPad.
You can pick up your copy of the latest Zagat Guide at bookstores or online as a mobile app.