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Corner Office from Marketplace

Online reviews eat at restaurant guides

Alisa Roth Oct 10, 2007
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Alisa Roth: New York is nothing if not a restaurant town. An “average” meal at one of the city’s best places will set you back 143 bucks.
But which places are the best?

The Michelin Guide to New York dining was released this week — 42 restaurants got stars. And today, the 2008 Zagat guide to cities’ restaurants is out. But go online and you can get reviews from everybody from the New York Times to the guy down the street. And that got us wondering: Do restaurant guides mean anything these days? So we asked Alisa Roth to sink her teeth into it.


Alisa Roth: Ratings can make or break a restaurant.

Dennis Marzella is a brand strategist at Quantified Marketing Group, a PR firm specializing in the food business:

Dennis Marzella: It’s kind of like your local restaurant reviewer — regardless of how you feel about him, you know, a bad review is not going to be favorable to you.

The Michelin Guide uses anonymous reviewers to make its top picks. The Zagat Guide lets the public vote. If you want to know what they think, you’ll have to buy the book.

Online, though, thousands of reviews are available for the price of an Internet search. Does anybody actually buy restaurant guides anymore?

Robert Sietsema is restaurant critic for the Village Voice.

Robert Sietsema: I’m afraid they do. Your choices when you’re gonna come into New York is either to do about 30 hours of web research, or you can just pick up the Zagat.

And that’s a problem for Michelin. Zagat’s been a staple of American diners for years. For now, Michelin’s only eating in New York and San Francisco. The French company says it plans to move into cities like Las Vegas and L.A. soon.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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