Grade Inflation: Can Zagat Be Trusted?

Smart Money has an interesting article about the Zagat guide and its recent “grade inflation”:

When the Zagats started selling their 1983 New York restaurant guide, it was no mean feat for a chef to score a food rating of 20 or higher, the benchmark for “very good to excellent” in Zagat terms. Only one in four New York restaurants did so at the time. Today fully 70% reach those heights. It’s as if the bottom tier dropped out: Just over a decade ago 189 out of 1,300 New York restaurants rated 15 or below; today only 23 do, despite the fact that the guide now rates more than 1,500 restaurants. Step outside restaurants and the numbers look even more buoyant — including a rather impressive handicap in the golf guides, where two clubs have managed a perfect 30 for their courses.

The Zagats say the inflation is due to the fact that bad restaurants are cut for space. Meanwhile, they enjoy the best tables at the best restaurants and sell more copies of their guide than the paperback run of The Da Vinci Code. Why give a bad review when everything is going so well?

SmartMoney totaled the ratings in numerous Zagat guides to come up with an average for each. The average food rating for the New York restaurant guide has risen 26% since 1983, while the number of restaurants rated 25 or above in San Francisco has jumped nearly 60% in the past five years.

One reason could be that the Zagats sell costly plaques to restaurants, the higher the score…the more expensive the plaque. Hmmm. That sounds ethical. Read the rest of the Smart Money article, it’s really interesting.—MEGHANN MARCO

Zagat Grade Inflation: Should You Trust The Reviews [Smart Money] (Thanks, David!)

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