In the latest round of food media news that no one really saw coming, New York-based restaurant guide The Infatuation announced today that it is buying Zagat from Google, who has owned the legacy restaurant guide for the last seven years.
Zagat has long been an iconic brand. Developed by Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979, the little red books have guided diners in cities across the globe, beginning in New York City, where the couple asked friends to contribute their recommendations for the inaugural edition. By the time Google purchased the brand in 2011 for a cool $151 million, Zagat had become one of the most acclaimed resources for restaurants, bars and other eateries in some 70 cities.
Google brought Zagat further into the online realm, integrating its guidebooks with maps and tools that reveal restaurant wait times, in an attempt to compete with sites like Yelp. Zagat’s 30-point restaurant rating scale was also reduced to a scale of one to five in 2016.
The Infatuation, who you know from its Instagram hashtags #eeeeeats and conversational reviews, has entered into an agreement to buy Zagat from Google for an undisclosed amount.
“How often does an iconic brand like Zagat become available?” The Infatuation cofounder and CEO Chris Stang said in a press release. “When you think about its history and what Zagat means to so many people, it’s a huge opportunity.”
The Infatuation launched nine years ago with restaurant reviews in cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London, using hashtags—like #eeeeeats—and other social media platforms and strategies to draw audiences to its recommendations. “We relate to audiences in a way that other entities aren’t,” Stang told the New York Times. He added that Zagat remains a relevant brand that—with The Infatuation’s technical expertise—could develop further in the digital and social media realms. “We’re just trying to build something that takes this powerful brand and continues to grow it,” Stang told the newspaper.
For its part, Zagat looks forward to the acquisition. “Tim and I are very excited for Zagat’s next chapter with The Infatuation,” Nina Zagat said in the press release. “Their innovative approach, and their passion for helping people discover great restaurants and for building community, line up with what we built with Zagat from the very beginning.”
According to the press release, The Infatuation and Zagat will continue to be two distinct brands, each with their own platforms. However, under its new leadership, Zagat “will expand user surveys and develop a new tech-driven platform that will create a stronger, more meaningful alternative to other crowdsourced restaurant reviews.”
What’s more, through the acquisition, “Zagat’s product offerings will be expanded internationally, to connect with communities abroad,” using The Infatuation’s “social capital,” the press release states, and introducing Zagat to its more “millennial audience.”