Saturday, May 08, 2004

Zagats and Naked Royalty

The LA Times food section has an interesting article entitled "Behind the '05 Zagat Results." (No link because paid registration is required, but the article is available on Lexis.) The gist of the article is this: Restaurateurs are asking patrons to vote for them in the Zagat survey, and that this undermines the efficacy of the guide. This strikes me as fairly stupid, even for a sub-par food section in a sub-par newspaper. Do any true gourmands actually turn to the Zagat guide for their food advice? Absolutely not. The ZG is good for one thing: Telling the reader which restaurants are “good.” As a rule, this maps perfectly to restaurants that are expense, but not at all onto restaurants that serve good food. Here in Chicago, I recently went to a highly-rated Zagat restaurant and received overcooked pasta with flavorless sauce. My co-diners were equally unimpressed. But there's a strong Emperor’s New Clothing aspect to the Zagat ratings: No one who spends bajillions of dollars at Fleur de Crap wants to admit that the food was mediocre and that they could do better dining with the common folk. All this is by way of saying that Zagat ratings aren't worth a hill of beans -- they're great for finding expensive places "known" for being good, but very little besides. Thus, to launch into hysterics as if this game-playing means the demise of some valuable institution is just silly.

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