Will Zagat Be Buried by Yelp?

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The Post tells us that the Zagats, after failing to sell their business for $200 million, are struggling to keep it afloat. Sales are down dramatically, according to an insider, and traffic at the website is trending downward, hence sixteen recent layoffs. Meanwhile, Yelp has almost doubled its traffic to more than 7 million U.S. visitors. Its a sad picture, since Zagat was probably the original Yelp, in the way it democratized restaurant reviewing (albeit with tight-gripped editorial control). But as foodies became more sophisticated, simple adjectives like stunning and impeccable wouldnt do and even though Zagats full website (which costs $25 to access) does incorporate thousands of full reader reviews, most of them are still only a few sentences long, if that.

Although Zagat boasts 738 member reviews for Per Se, for instance, many of them read simply dont get the hype and worth every dime, or just heaven. It seems the Zagat user has been trained to speak in sound bites. Take a look at the 177 Yelp reviews, however, and youll find breakdowns of every dish, etc., right down to the courier that the restaurant uses to fly in its fish from Japan. Even if Zagat were to eliminate its registration fee, its uncertain whether it could bring the sort of enthusiasm you see on Yelp. People still imagine Zagats typical user to be Patrick Bateman someone who cares about restaurants but only on a highly superficial level.

Anyway, its interesting to see that some of the concerns about ballot-stuffing that have plagued Zagat are now surfacing at Yelp. As Diners Journal points out, the company has posted some advice to business owners, urging them, among other things, not to offer discounts for favorable reviews.