Struggling to find somewhere good to eat? When you’re in a new city, perhaps on holiday or a business trip, or if you just want to try to find somewhere new in your neighbourhood, it makes sense to take advantage of recommendations rather than just try some place at random.
There are a few websites that can be used to check restaurant reviews and ratings but when you’re out and about, a dedicated app can prove more useful. Zagat is a free app from Google that enables you to discover the perfect place to eat as well as give you the chance to share your thoughts and experiences with others.
Let’s get something out of the way immediately. If you’re not a fan of Google+, you should be aware that in order to use Zagat, you’ll need to have an account. Really, this should not be enough to dissuade anyone from using an app, nevertheless, it’s something to bear in mind.
Find Your Food
Zagat’s interface is pleasingly easy to use – there’s no room for confusion. Fire up the app and it will immediately attempt to locate food establishments in your current location, but you can also opt to look in a different city or specific zip code, and use the various filtering options to home in on the type of food you’re looking for.
Tap the Cuisines button at the top of the screen and you can choose the style of menu you want – everything from Italian and Irish to Korean and Russian are available along with options such as sushi, seafood and the intriguing ‘Eclectic’.
But dining out should be a perfect experience; it’s not enough to ensure that you are getting the right sort of food, you also need the setting to be right, and this is where the Scores sections comes into play.
Here you can specify the restaurant rating you’re happy to settle for, and you can choose four different attributes for consideration – food, décor, service and price. Set your maximum or minimum level in each of these categories and the restaurants that have been found in your cuisine style will be further filtered.
If you want to take things even further, you can also select the features you would like your restaurant to have. This includes things such as all-you-can-eat menus, whether breakfast is served, the presence of a celebrity chef and the opening hours.
Search results are clearly presented and you have a variety of options available to you. You’re welcome to browse through the list as it appears, but you can also sort by food type, price, or just opt to go alphabetical.
In the results view, basic, at-a-glance details are shown including the ratings that have been awarded by other reviewers in the various categories as well as the average price of a meal.
Click through to an individual listing and you can view further information including photos that have been submitted by other Zagat users. There’s also an intriguing summary of reviews that have been written which pick out the pertinent points that other reviewers have made and sums them up in a single paragraph for speed of digestion.
Part of the point of any social app like this is the fact that it enables anyone to take part in a community. As well as making use of reviews and ratings that have been posted by others, you are also free to post your own when you have visited a restaurant. As you would expect, there is also the ability to share listings through Google+ and other means, and this is a great feature if you are arranging to meet a group of people at a yet-to-be-confirmed venu.
So far, I’ve concentrated on the phone version of the app. In all likelihood, this is the version that most people will be using to make use of the service as it’s easier to whip out your phone from your pocket rather than your tablet. That said, the tablet version of Zagat is worth a look.
The description of Zagat states that the app has been optimized for 7- and 10-inch tablets, and this shows clearly. The extra space that is available to display the map is put to great use, and the fact that option menus overlap other onscreen elements means that it is easier to make changes to your searches and see instant results.
Zagat has tremendous potential, but things are just too restricted at the moment. The bulk of the restaurant reviews are currently limited, somewhat understandably, to a handful of major cities around the world. This is all well and good, but when it’s compared to the likes of Yelp, Zagat is found wanting.
Google, the company that is now behind the app, claims that there are more than 30,000 restaurants in its database but that’s just a drop in the ocean on a worldwide level — there are probably large cities with as many eateries. It’s only when this number increases – dramatically – that Zagat will be worth investigating.
A well designed app for finding somewhere to eat, but the number of listings is currently far too limited for this to be particularly useful at the moment.7
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