Before the internet was around, one of the best ways to find local restaurants was to open up a Zagat guide and flip through professionally reviewed and ranked listings. In recent years, however, old-school guides like Zagat have lost ground to online crowd-sourced review services like Yelp – which have become the go-to place for many people looking to discover new places.
As I discussed in my Search Engine Land column last week, part of the appeal of these online services is that they offer a “vertical” experience. With only a few clicks, users can browse through a fully categorized directory of local restaurants, view menus and prices, find directions, and make reservations. From discovery to purchase, these vertical services offer a level of convenience that keeps users coming back. In that same vein, Google recently debuted the redesign of its Zagat app and website to include a host of new features.
From the home screen of the app, users are prompted to pick one of nine predetermined city locations (Google plans to expand this to 50+ cities in the US and abroad in the coming months). From there, users are brought to a scrolling list of news stories, event listings, and editorial posts selected by Zagat. The real action comes from the side bar, which contains the “Lists” and “Nearby Places” options. Clicking lists pulls up a selection of rankings curated by Zagat’s staff, like “Best Burgers in NYC” and “Best Hotel Bars in NYC”. There’s also an “Editors Picks” tab, which shows fun rankings like “Most Creative Cocktails” and “Best Celeb Sightings in NYC”, among others.
“Nearby Places” offers listings of top local picks, all of which are ranked by Zagat on food, décor, service, and cost. From here, users can filter by cuisine type, neighborhood and features (which features an impressive list of tags including “Architectural Interest”, “Best of Green/Local/Organic”, “Business-Oriented”, and many more).
Clicking on any restaurant will pull a tab showing their review and Zagat rating, along with the option to call, add to calendar, and reserve online (through a partnership with OpenTable). From here users can also view photos and see the restaurant’s location on a map. Operating hours and links to the restaurant’s website and menu are also available, alongside options to favorite restaurants in the app and share links to the usual social networks.
Overall, the updated design makes for a more curated local search experience when looking for restaurants. With the new Zagat, consumers can perform all the conventional local search actions with the backing of professional opinions on their choices. Users will find the editor’s picks and reviews as well as special video content an added touchpoint when searching for a restaurant – one more layer to the typical crowd-sourced reviews and simple restaurant listings. As always, securing a positive review from Zagat will provide a huge boost to any local restaurant.