In 2011 Google made headlines by purchasing the popular restaurant review survey publisher Zagat. Now Google is preparing to launch a new “Local” tab in Google+ which will fully integrate reviews of neighborhood restaurants with existing tools like maps and search. Integrating with Google+ as well, Local will give Google+ members the opportunity to submit their own reviews and see which restaurants their friends are visiting, all accessible on a mobile platform.
There are currently over 35,000 reviews currently in the system, and additional ones are pouring in, with a platform available in 60 languages and over 100 countries. The restaurant reviews are based on Zagat’s 30-point rating scale, and takes into account several factors including but not limited to décor, cost and service.
Some critics have mentioned that Google’s Local tab seems to accomplish many of the same tasks as Yelp; however Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat was ready to address this criticism. “A lot of people have copied us over the years, but we think nobody has done it the way we’ve done it.” Ultimately he says that Yelp was inspired by Zagat, and Zagat has editorial oversight ensuring quality, accuracy and a lack of bias.
Yelp has garnered plenty of controversy in recent years over the influence advertisers have had on user reviews. Yelp has also been charged with penalizing restaurants that do not advertise on the site, as well as offering advertisers the ability to remove negative reviews to boost their overall rating. Zagat’s ratings have not incited that level of controversy, as they are all professionally written and edited from Zagat’s surveyors. Tim Zagat stresses that chefs and restaurateurs have respect for Zagat reviews because they feel they are honest and accurate.
Zagat will continue to publish a print version of its restaurant reviews, but all online content will be free. Google representatives clarified that Local will differ from tools that other social media websites have, because Local will fully integrate with Google’s other tools. However Google still stressed the importance of companies and restaurants creating profiles on Local in a similar manner to how they do on other social media websites.
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