Dear Google – Re Zagat New App – What were you thinking?

July 30, 2013

in apps, Mobility, Networks, Knowledge and Social Media, Strategy Formulation

Hot Dog JohnnyTwo summers ago I was riding my motorcycle across the states. At breakfast I was planning my lunch stop. I pulled out my Zagat App and found this Hot Dog place on my route. It was a classic find and the dog was great. Last summer the Zagat App was dead (killed by Google) and I moved to Yelp and I found the breakfasts the coffees and neat meals and places I wanted to hunt out. Yelp is still teaching me today. So I was a little surprised to see yesterday that Google is relaunching the Zagat App. Turns out they are killing Google Local too. So as a former Zagat lover I’ve written a letter to Google below after the new pitch video. My sentiments are similarly shared by this reviewer.

Dear Google,

I was a Zagat lover, that is before you bought it and turned off the app. Zagat was my point of reference for finding a superb meal. I trusted their ratings and started submitting my own. Now today I see you have re-launched the Zagat app. It’s a shallow glossy shell of what it once was. Less content even in my local area. I no longer know where your reviews come from or the quotes. There’s not enough information there to make me to use the app or begin to embrace it. You had a fantastic opportunity with Zagat to make it a better Yelp. To grow it, crowdsource information and use/build on the experts platform already established and  innovate in new ways.

Instead you bought it and turned the original Zagat app off. I think I’d even paid money for that one. Now it is free.  I presume because the backend was a mess, and people’s accounts and details didn’t match with “Google+”. Yes I know it was a pocket change purchase at $150 million+. Yet now you have wasted your money. There’s nothing here. It’s not easy to navigate, it’s not more effective than Yelp and or even your own Local (which of course you are killing too) and now you hope to blind me with nice pictures.

All those comments, all those wonderful meals I’d had. You Google took that away from me. In this new app you haven’t given it back. You destroyed my data. I can’t bookmark new restaurants for later. I can’t even log-in. And you haven’t solved the real problem. You missed how I want to use the app now for I’ve changed and see the real rewards from community. That is why after 30 minutes playing with it I am deleting it. Let me give you a “Yelp” lesson and maybe you will yelp too.

  • I want a Restaurant
  • I open Yelp
  • I search nearby.
  • I choose restaurants
  • I typically filter on highest rating within 5 miles
  • I choose and call
  • I go to dinner

Before we go back to Zagat let’s briefly talk Google Local which was using Zagat ratings for some time where available. When I want to do the above Google Local was better than the new Zagat and similar to Yelp although in my mind less trusted (just my opinion) and perhaps less content. Both are a fail on UI versus Yelp.  Perhaps I should have seen what happens in Google Maps but you lost me there to Siri, Waze and Yelp.

Now let’s get back to Zagat new app from Google. I open the app. I get a screen that look more like a magazine than instant foodism. The selection is few and the “single” review maybe ok but I’m less than certain. Fact is the best Restaurants on Yelp are the same as on Zagat or Local today. Providing me with big color pics won’t color this judgement. I know how to read their reviews, and quickly make a choice that is both interesting and meets my budget.

I’m fairly certain you have missed the boat Google. When you could have done so much more. An example of what I want is the nosey experience. You should know the one. You are in a foreign place, walking the streets and casing potential places to eat tonight. Nothing like a little window shopping for food, and the ala carte menu outside. Why can’t you just give me a notification when I’m in the area of a culinary delight. You know that Food 26+ rating. That’s better than advertising and you can charge for the referral. Why can’t you keep even a private list for me of when and where I dined? Why won’t you keep my reviews and notes, and capture the menu from that night?

Second, why can’t you just make menu’s come to life? See my story above. We go in because there is stuff on the menu we want to eat and indulge in. What matters in presentation is the menu, not the name of the restaurant, not the number of food points. Yes I need food points to filter to my culinary demands and potentially my budget. Even Sam’s HotDogs Menu can sell me. Rather than spending all this time on just the pictures spend time on sharing the menu. Make it easy for me to use as  a group invite. Make it easy to even pre-order so the “Chef” can really time my meal. Let me share it without prices as a surprise. Let me make a special request to the chef. But Google what you must do is make a decision. If you want to tie me into a few restaurants with Zagats then the experience has to be something I can’t get elsewhere.

You still think your best of lists are real marketing. Rankings aren’t that helpful. Yes I might like to sort by food – but mostly I’m not going to travel too far. Those Zagat sticky labels on Restaurant doors? I’d already assumed they were history. I also hope I’ve shared I don’t use my mobile to fantasize about restaurants. Menu’s might be something else. Don’t expect me to look for a daily update. Remember you don’t have enough content organized in a way that really excites me. If Zagats is going to differentiate from Local and from Yelp it must specialize, go upmarket and create a special relationship with the restaurant. Like the comments above that is worth more than simple click throughs. Maybe something will happen with maps – just realize I’ve effectively already left it.

While I’m about it. You could have created a “Zagat Cuppa” just specializing in coffee shops. I like coffee and I could do with a rated app for that. I prefer the independents and that too is where your marketing dollars will come from. It all just feels like so much waste.

So Zagat Google, while you have been gone and from what I’ve told you. You now know I’ve fallen in love with Yelp which works for my meals, coffees, breakfasts and many more services. I’m starting to give them reviews. They are close to actually getting me in engaged in making the place better. If that’s what you’d asked of us Zagat lovers I may have come back. As it is your app will sit untouched waiting for an update which might just say “new”. The error of your ways was thinking that “exclusive” and “snooty” will keep you there. That world is gone and that positioning gone with it. Zagats like the Michelin Guide in Europe is old school. In the old days you needed someone to point out the great places. Today, a rating on everyplace is possible and that’s more useful than just the great places or believing in your editorial staff.

I wish you luck. Especially with iOS users. While you may want to combine all the food and restaurants into your maps it may be that we don’t think like that yet and getting me to ask the maps app “where’s the best coffee around here” is diminished when I don’t believe there is a community behind it. Of course you now purchased Waze and that does have a community. The final question is do you know what that means? Will you now kill Waze too?

Yelp n yelp again even when it hurts,





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