Finding a decent place to eat can be one of the most difficult things about traveling. Being hungry, possibly tired and probably cranky is not an ideal state of mind for a savvy food hunt. In that state, I blindly go into auto-search mode by launching Google (as I do for everything). Then often I wind up checking out (and then ultimately brushing aside) the auto-populated Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews that spring up. That’s when I remember to hit up that maroon-hued go-to guide put out by Tim and Nina Zagat.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Zagat fan, so the news that Google acquired Zagat Survey thrills me to no end. Despite being a crowd-sourced model, foodies know that the reviews are spot-on, unlike a lot of others user-review resources. And now, under the auspices of Google, it’s a sure bet they’ll be able to inform an even broader audience.

Google’s Melissa Mayer (VP of Local, Maps, and Location Services) made the announcement via haiku tweet:

Wow. When Google’s bid to buy Yelp for $500 million was rebuffed, who knew this would be around the corner? And reportedly, the search giant got Zagat for a steal. (The number floating around the webs is less than $66 million.)

Mayer says that, “[m]oving forward, Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering–delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world.” Does that mean Zagat will get Goog-ified, even possibly given away, like many of Google’s other offerings? Hard to imagine, but if that paywall does come tumbling down, it would be great news for all the techie food geeks out there. Suddenly, it looks like Google Places is about to get much, much more interesting.

As for Tim and Nina, they’re staying on to steer the ship, as they embark on their first days as bona fide Googlers. Congrats, you two. And hey — let us know what you think of the infamous Mountain View cafeteria.

[via Inside Scoop SF, Village Voice, source Google Blog,]