Google has finally found a buyer for Zagat, the restaurant guidebook company that’s waned in popularity and influence in recent years: Per the New York Times, it’s been snapped up by the Infatuation, the restaurant recommendation site with presence in dozens of cities across the globe, for an undisclosed amount.
Founded in 2009, the Infatuation is largely known for coining what is likely one of the most-misspelled Instagram hashtags of all time: #eeeeeats, with five E’s. The site has been criticized for occasional forays into casual racism (Eater NY editor Serena Dai called its review of a Williamsburg Chinese restaurant the “most racist review I’ve read of a restaurant, maybe ever“; it was later yanked from the site) and created a stir with a critical Instagram Stories review of Vespertine, the self-serious spaceship of an LA restaurant where phones are strictly banned.
Google purchased Zagat for $151 million back in 2011 in order to integrate the company’s database of restaurant information into its maps and compete with other review sites like Yelp. Google once had big plans for the brand, but starting in 2015, it began stripping the Zagat branding away and instead emphasized its own data-based tools like displaying restaurant wait times, rather than reviews. Zagat, which for years rated restaurants on a 30-point scale that factors in in food, service, atmosphere, and pricing, switched to a more simple scale of 1.0 to 5.0 in 2016.
Google had reportedly been looking for a buyer for Zagat for at least a couple months.
Update: In an announcement, the Infatuation writes that Zagat and Infatuation will remain separate brands, and hints at the opportunity for Zagat’s own products to grow:
The Infatuation and Zagat will operate as two distinct brands, with individual platforms, and distinct purposes and points of view. Specifically, The Infatuation will retain its editorial-first focus, producing high quality, situational reviews and guides, while continuing its groundbreaking work in mobile and social media. Working within The Infatuation’s infrastructure and 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.
The two brands will work in tandem to provide users quality and diverse options for restaurant recommendations. The Infatuation will introduce Zagat to its highly engaged, millennial audience and will leverage the social capital which they have earned since their launch nine years ago to help grow the Zagat brand. In addition, Zagat’s product offerings will be expanded internationally, to connect with communities abroad.