When Google purchased US restaurant guide provider Zagat back in September 2011, I mentally filed it on the long list of Google services that we would never see in Australia. So Google's announcement that it is surveying Sydney residents ahead of launching a local Zagat presence caught me by surprise.
Google is asking Sydney residents and visitors to rate restaurants and attractions on three key elements (food, decor and service), as well as comment on the typical price and overall experience. Google will then compile that information into individual restaurant and attraction scores; it hasn't specified into which format or when it will happen, but the US Zagat guide charges $US24.95 a year for online access. The initial Sydney survey runs until July 1.
This comes across very much as a full-frontal attack on Yelp, which launched in Australia last November and relies on individual reader reviews. Google's comment that "this process ensures that readers are provided with reliable, structured information that doesn’t require going through dozens of comments before making a decision" comes across as a swipe at its rival (though Google Maps itself is filled with reviews you have to scroll through).
While the current survey only covers Sydney, I'll be surprised if this doesn't get extended to other cities if it's successful. And hey, people in Perth and Adelaide already have public transport integrated into Google Maps -- I'd happily trade restaurants reviews for that.
Zagat: the “burgundy bible” comes to Australia [Official Google Australia Blog]