Google is trying to get rid of Zagat, the restaurant-review service it bought in 2011 for $151 million, sources tell Reuters. They say it believes that selling the company, initially founded by Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 as a pre-Yelp way of collecting diners’ ratings of restaurants, would be a good way of “pruning its portfolio” of “smaller non-core assets.” Google has reportedly held “informal talks” with “multiple companies” in recent months where it’s shopped around the idea of off-loading both the Zagat brand and website.
The asking price is unknown, and it’s obviously not certain that Google will find a buyer it likes. But as Reuters also notes, a sale would “mark a course reversal” for Google. Marissa Mayer, still with the search giant back then, made it a pet project of sorts, telling reporters at the time of the acquisition that they’d expand the Zagat team and bring in additional reviewers. But she left Google a year later, of course, to become Yahoo’s CEO. A redesigned app debuted in 2013, and in 2016, Google tweaked Zagat’s 30-point rating scale, which was reportedly “too confusing” for users, but that was about all the TLC it got. Today, it pops up on Google Maps’ location-info windows, but most people probably hardly notice, in part because none of the cool ways that Google keeps enhancing users’ restaurant searches involve the Zagat entries.
In 2009, Google tried and failed to buy Yelp. Zagat was therefore dubbed a “consolation prize” in 2011. Its small New York team of sales staff and fact-checkers never integrated that seamlessly into their new boss’s world: They stayed in New York, eventually moving into Google’s Chelsea headquarters, but only after remaining for a while in their old offices at Columbus Circle, which Tim Zagat said “had better restaurants.” Google quickly removed the Zagat.com paywall, cut the over 30 cities it covered down to 9, and largely gutted the burgundy-colored print guides that made Zagat famous.