Google launched the restaurant review guide Zagat in Australia yesterday and claimed the guide would provide reliable and structured information.
The guide was started more than three decades ago in the United States on the basis that the combined opinions of restaurant diners are inherently more accurate than reviews from a few critics.
In a blogpost announcing the launch, Anna Kricker, Sydney community manager for Google Australia, said each Zagat review contains the most accurate and up-to-date information through curating comments from real customers.
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She said Zagat was “an early pioneer” in user-generated content.
Google opened a voting period yesterday for its first-ever Zagat survey of Sydney, which invites locals to voice their opinions about the Sydney restaurants and Sydney attractions they’ve visited over the past year.
Diners will be asked to separately rate the food, decor, and service on a 0-3 scale and then estimate the cost of a meal.
After reading the ratings and comments, Zagat’s editors will curate the feedback and create reviews that represent the combined experiences of local diners.
“This process ensures that readers are provided with reliable, structured information that doesn’t require going through dozens of comments before making a decision on where to eat,” Kricker said, in what appeared to be a veiled hit at existing user restaurant review sites Yelp! and Urbanspoon.
Zagat will also launch in Melbourne but Kate Mason, spokesperson for Google, told SmartCompany there are no plans for other Australian cities at this stage.
Zagat is launching online and will also involve a hard copy publication at a later stage.
“The reviews are gathered with the view to creating a book,” says Mason.
Mason was unable to specify what charges will be involved but the US Zagat guide charges $US24.95 a year for online access.
John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant & Catering, told SmartCompany that Australia already had a number of restaurant review systems in place and some of those were more objective than others.
“The last thing we need in the market now is another system of rating and reviewing restaurants,” says Hart.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where we have any more subjective reviews of our businesses than we already have.
Hart advocates Restaurant & Caterings plate rating system, which he says is objective because it uses 550 trained judges to rate 2,500 restaurants against 55 criteria.
“Review style sites don’t have firm criteria against which ratings are set, which gives rise to decisions that restaurants themselves question,” says Hart.