Magazine article Newsweek International

Zagat Goes Global

Magazine article Newsweek International

Zagat Goes Global

Article excerpt

Little Timmy Zagat was an ordinary jewish boy in New York. His mother was no great cook. He had never heard of haute cuisine. Then he met Nina. "A revelation! She could cook! I married her!" Together, they have eaten out happily ever after--and the rest is guide-book history. For nearly a generation, the Zagats' guides have led savvy New Yorkers to the best meals and the best culinary deals in the restaurant capital of the world. With success came breadth. There are Zagat Surveys for every major city in America--and many foreign capitals. Now the Zagats are going truly global, expanding into new-media ventures and publishing a slew of international hotel and resort guides. They spoke with NEWSWEEK's Vibhuti Patel in New York:

PATEL: You're both Yale-graduated lawyers. Why restaurant guides?

TIM ZAGAT: It was a hobby. We had this group called the Downtown Wine Tasting Association--a way of dignifying people who ate and drank a lot together. Somebody with the benefit of his 10th glass of wine started criticizing the food critic of The New York Times. So I, also on my 10th glass of wine, said, hey, why not do a survey by our friends, who all eat out and travel extensively. Hundreds of real people sharing their experiences seemed a better way to rate a restaurant than one "critic."

And Zagat was born?

NINA ZAGAT: Yes. What we do is different from the critics. Our guides are basically a democratic vote.

TIM: No one has a Ph.D. in taste buds!

So you turned this hobby into a business?

NINA: At first we thought we'd practice law and do the guides for fun. We gave away 10,000 copies the first year. Then I told Tim, "Let's cover our expenses."

TIM: She's a tax lawyer!

NINA: Publishers thought it ridiculous. After being turned down by everyone...

TIM:... including my uncle...

NINA:... we decided to do it ourselves. …

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