- Google agreed to sell its Zagat restaurant guide to The Infatuation, a nine-year-old business started by two former music industry executives who wanted a way to recommend restaurants and bars to friends. The Infatuation has created smartphone apps, an Instagram hashtag and a texting recommendation service as part of its expanding services, according to The New York Times.
- Zagat, which was originally started by Tim and Nina Zagat as a survey of their friends' opinions about restaurants in New York, had been acquired seven years ago for $151 million when Google planned to integrate its reviews into its mapping service. The search giant instead de-emphasized Zagat's reviews in favor of Google's own collected recommendations, per the Times.
- The Infatuation has an in-house team of reviewers who cover restaurants in cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. It popularized the branded hashtag #EEEEEATS on Instagram and runs food-related accounts on image-sharing app. Its Text Rex texting recommendation service staffed by humans recommends restaurants for users' particular occasions or cravings.
The Infatuation, which plans to keep Zagat as a separate brand that features user-generated reviews, has an opportunity to raise its profile with the long-established restaurant review platform. The startup is attuned to the ever-changing mobile market and nuances of social media platforms and could bring Zagat's library of content into its other products.
Zagat was a pioneer in using surveys of consumers to gauge the popularity of restaurants and dining trends. But the digital age has spawned dozens of similar services that let people express their dining experiences and help others discover new places to try, leading to an increasingly crowded space. Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook's Marketplace section and Google Maps are among the services that collect user-generated ratings and reviews in real time. In 2016, Google redesigned Zagat's website and published an app to provide suggestions based on a user's location and the time of day.
Google has a long history of buying companies as part of its ambitions to deepen content offerings and to push into platforms such as mobile communications and the Internet of Things (IoT). Occasionally, those plans don't work out as expected, and the company takes a different direction. Google started shopping around the Zagat guide as parent company Alphabet began pruning its portfolio of non-core businesses, Reuters reported in January. Alphabet last year sold off two robotics firms, Boston Dynamics and Schaft, and a satellite imaging business acquired in 2014. In 2016, Alphabet explored selling Nest, the maker of Wi-Fi enabled thermostats that are now more integrated with its Google Home platform for smart appliances.