The foodie world is full of debates and passionate arguments, but few cause as much debate as the accuracy of the Zagat Survey. Check out these five lingering doubts about the survey before you make your next decision about where to eat.  Start your Zagat api Survey for the very first time here .

The Basics

The original Zagat Survey was created by restaurant critic and entrepreneur John T. Molloy and first published in 1975 at a small press run by his wife named The New York City Zagat .  In later years, the survey was published by Time Inc. Books, which is now owned by Time Inc., but independently operated as a subsidiary of Time Warner.  In 2008, it was purchased by an Internet company called Gourmet Holdings, which was eventually bought out in 2013 by TripAdvisor , which is currently owned by Expedia .

Five doubts about Zagat are:

1. How Accurate Is It?  

While the original survey is accurate to within a few percentage points, the later iterations of the Zagat Survey are not.  The current Zagat Survey rates restaurants with a rating scale of 1-5, with 5 being highest.  In some cases, even this number falls short.  Restaurants that have only been open for one year or less will be rated by their staff, who will take the average rating from online reviewers and online articles about that restaurant.  It’s not uncommon for start-up restaurants to have 0 reviews at all.  A big Los Angeles food blog has been writing about an undiscovered sushi place whose ratings range from 

2. How Do I Know Which One to Use?  

For the most accurate Zagat Survey, you will want to use the Zagat Survey found on .  This is the only one that relies solely on user reviews rather than a survey sent to restaurant staff.  Zagat has a rating system named ” survey strength,” where restaurants with more reviews are given a higher ranking.  If a restaurant has fewer than 25 reviews, their ranking is not reflected in this survey strength.

3. Is it Always Accurate?  

Even if you find the most accurate Zagat Survey, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be 100% accurate.  The most common source of inaccuracy is an unexpected surge in business.  A restaurant gets a lot of new customers, and before long the staff will have a more positive opinion of the restaurant than they did at first.  This can result in an inaccurate survey rating, even if the food itself remains consistent (as it should).  On the opposite end, restaurants that have received negative publicity may experience a sudden drop-off in business to begin with, which will be reflected in their lower survey ratings. One restaurant reviewer who wrote for The New York Times told me that he used Zagat ratings to decide where to eat, but only marked them down if they were too high.  This is important to keep in mind because the biggest difference between Zagat and other restaurant rating systems is that other surveys with higher ratings can be more accurate.

4. How Do They Apply to Me?  

If you’re curious about a new place, and want a quick online ranking of a restaurant, you might as well go with the most accurate one there is.  If you are considering a restaurant that has been in business for several years, you might want to look at the reviews over the last couple of years.  In this case, it doesn’t make much sense to use the most accurate survey because its potential inaccuracies will be mostly hidden by reviews of newer restaurants.

But if you’re planning on eating out a lot, or don’t have much time on your hands, another survey might be better for you.

5. What Do They Mean?  

The first thing to keep in mind when reading a food review is whether the reviewer was given the opportunity to write about everything on the menu.  If they were, that’s nice, but if they were only given two or three choices and were asked to rate those options, you need to make sure that those ratings are accurate.  A good rule of thumb is that if you have more choices than a reviewer, then their rating is likely not accurate. The second thing to consider is whether they are reflective of the restaurant itself.  A restaurant might be unique in some way that would make it difficult for another similar place to get a 5 rating.


The reviews that are unique to your particular location will be more accurate.  If you review a restaurant, write about as much of the menu as possible.  Try to stay away from restaurants with ratings that are unreasonably high or low.

let’s not forget that Zagat itself is not perfect either, if you check out their site you will see many reviews (many of them are fake) which they delete after they find out it was fake because they want their site look authentic and real , the reality is when it comes to traveler opinion zagat is still king .


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here