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Zagat Guides for Canada


bethala
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Yesterday, Zagat announced new guides for Canada: Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

This is a segment of the email announcement I received (I don't know how to paste the image):

Introducing 3 Brand-New Guides for Canada

Montréal, Toronto & Vancouver Restaurants

Savvy restaurant-goers can now rely on Zagat when dining out in three popular Canadian cities – Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. These all-new pocket-sized guides also include Nightlife, Hotel & Attraction sections and are ideal for locals & tourists alike.

SAVE! Canada Pocket Guide Pack

Save up to 40% when you order Montréal, Toronto &

Vancouver Restaurants together! Order now and save.

Special Pack Price: $13.95

Zagat.com Subscriber Price: $10.46

(books sold separately for up to $17.85)

Guides sold separately for $5.95. (Subscribers pay just $4.46.)

Montréal Toronto Vancouver

Are Canadians interested in Zagat guides at all? Did anyone here participate in any of the Canada surveys? Has anyone checked these out and compared the results to reality?

Here's the link to purchasing the Montréal guide:

http://www.zagat.com/shop/product_detail.a...e2006_V2_Canada

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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Yesterday, Zagat announced new guides for Canada: Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

This is a segment of the email announcement I received (I don't know how to paste the image):

Introducing 3 Brand-New Guides for Canada

Montréal, Toronto & Vancouver Restaurants 

 

Savvy restaurant-goers can now rely on Zagat when dining out in three popular Canadian cities – Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. These all-new pocket-sized guides also include Nightlife, Hotel & Attraction sections and are ideal for locals & tourists alike.

SAVE! Canada Pocket Guide Pack

Save up to 40% when you order Montréal, Toronto &

Vancouver Restaurants together! Order now and save.

Special Pack Price: $13.95

Zagat.com Subscriber Price: $10.46

(books sold separately for up to $17.85)

Guides sold separately for $5.95. (Subscribers pay just $4.46.)

Montréal Toronto Vancouver

Are Canadians interested in Zagat guides at all?  Did anyone here participate in any of the Canada surveys?  Has anyone checked these out and compared the results to reality?

Here's the link to purchasing the Montréal guide:

http://www.zagat.com/shop/product_detail.a...e2006_V2_Canada

I feel a little confused. The Zagat has been in Toronto for many years, so what's new about them. I do not trust the Zagat's because people may only go once to form their opinion, and quite honestly who the heck are they? It would not be difficult to skewer the results. So no, I do not trust the Zagat but it is handy for addresses, phone numbers, costs and hours.

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I do not trust the Zagat's because people may only go once to form their opinion

Wait, who says they have to go at all?

A chef I know read me the results of the Montreal guide. I think the list is a complete joke. If I remember correctly, Fairmount Bagel scored higher than Club Chasse et Peche for food.

I wish the Zagats would just stick to New York. The way this guide is put together(and the disgraceful amount of money they offer to the guide writer -- or should I say compiler) is insulting to anyone who cares about the restaurant business in our city.

The Zagats make me hate Americans. They have reduced our wondeful restaurant scene to a list based on the opinion of so few. And question: was the web survey even open to francophones?

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I do not trust the Zagat's because people may only go once to form their opinion

Wait, who says they have to go at all?

A chef I know read me the results of the Montreal guide. I think the list is a complete joke. If I remember correctly, Fairmount Bagel scored higher than Club Chasse et Peche for food.

I wish the Zagats would just stick to New York. The way this guide is put together(and the disgraceful amount of money they offer to the guide writer -- or should I say compiler) is insulting to anyone who cares about the restaurant business in our city.

The Zagats make me hate Americans. They have reduced our wondeful restaurant scene to a list based on the opinion of so few. And question: was the web survey even open to francophones?

Lesley, you posted back in 2004 that the surveys were not available in French. I guess they've never done anything to correct this oversight.

My guides are my fellow foodies on boards like this one. I'll take bethala's post of her impressions of Montreal over any published guide any day.

Edited by rcianci (log)
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Thanks for all your responses! These are exactly the kinds of responses I was expecting to hear from the Canada side. Here in New York, where the survey originated, many of us regard the Zagat guides with healthy cynicism, using them solely as address/phone books/neighborhood guides. So I expected that in a place where people might not have even participated in the survey, cynicism would be the most positive of the reactions to the books.

When I was in Paris in February, I asked my hotel’s concierge to make a restaurant reservation, and to my surprise, he pulled out a well-worn Paris Zagat. I’m pretty sure the Parisians who buy Zagat (if there are any) use it only as an address book and that it is probably purchased more by Americans who use it for traveling. And now that Lesley Chesterman has mentioned that the survey wasn’t offered in French in Montréal, I’ll bet the same is true for Paris. And I’m pretty sure that for places like Paris, it is mostly New Yorkers who complete the survey (Nina Zagat claims that “about 96 percent of our respondents answered in French”, however).

I must confess to having participated in the NYC Zagat survey since 1988 (they’ve even quoted me a few times). In the beginning, I was young and new to the New York "dining scene" (hate that term). I liked the idea of getting a guide in exchange for my participation and even thought I was doing something virtuous. Over the years, I’ve come to do it just so I can get my free copy (I’ve never paid for a NYC Zagat Guide!). I try to be as straightforward as possible, but I don’t think it helps the guide overall. For instance, when I was in grad school in Washington DC, I completed the survey for only the scant number of NYC places I’d visited in the previous year and didn’t give in to temptation to fill in with any of my favorites that I hadn’t visited lately just to make my survey look full. I can’t speak for any other survey participants because I don’t know any others, but I can only imagine.

Nowhere near indispensable, the Zagat Guide is nonetheless great for looking up addresses and seeing what’s out there. In New York, I often have to go out in a certain neighborhood where I don’t know or can’t remember what restos are available. Though not exhaustive, a Zagat guide can be helpful in that situation, especially when you are out and not close to a computer. But – and there are so many buts with Zagat – they often miss places, especially smaller and ethnic ones (they seem to get their cues of what to include from the New York Times Dining Section); the estimated prices are almost always too low; and, as everyone knows, the food ratings are almost always too high, for myriad reasons, including, most notably, the so-called “Zagat Effect”, coined by William Grimes several years back: a phenomenon whereby people who can’t think for themselves go to a highly-rated restaurant and convince themselves it’s good even when it’s not, and then go and fill out a Zagat survey with more high ratings for the so-so spot. Then there are the places that have ratings that are too low simply because someone judged a decent hole in the wall by 4-star standards. I also agree with LesleyC that the Zagat Survey is an extremely New York publication and that once you leave New York, it is even more unreliable (I let Zagat fool me into going to a horrible but highly rated “Cajun/Creole” place in Maui in 1993).

LesleyC, I also hate the American insistence on creating and relying upon numerical point systems for everything (Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, etc.). It precludes people from getting to know the nuances and colorings of anything and creates phenomena such as “Parker Wines”. It precludes people from appreciating places in their various contexts or trying new things, and it encourages fads and hopeless, formulaic imitators. I hope that you’ll appreciate that there are some Americans who do like to read and talk with people to get fuller pictures of where to go eat, what to drink, etc. And now I have to rethink my participation in the Zagat phenomenon just for the sake of getting a free book. Am I doing more harm than good?

I feel that each city has its own best food resources. For New York, for example, Zagat is good for getting a list of what’s out there, while The Times has more reliable reviews from singular palates. For Paris, I like to check out TimeOut to see what’s new, then check the quality through Patricia Wells, Pudlo, Michelin, and the Internet. For San Francisco, I think Patricia Unterman is very reliable. For any place, word of mouth from reliable locals is always the best resource. I started checking out eGullet when I couldn’t find anything other than the usual tourist guides for Montréal and went to the Internet. If I’d left it up to my Fodor’s guide, I would’ve been at Eggspectation for breakfast! Having recently joined eGullet, I think it's one of THE best resources for resto/food info.

All in all, I think the Zagat guide was a novel idea at its inception in the 80’s, when Tim and Nina had their ideal of taking a “democratic” survey of where to eat out in New York. But now, with the explosion of the Internet and so many other resources, I think it has outgrown much of its usefulness and that ideal has become a victim of its own success. And, while Zagat’s Starbucks-like attempt at world domination is a bit laughable, I’m sure it has mostly to do with that other American peculiarity called capitalism, in which the only way companies are considered successful is through “growth”.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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bethala, don't be shy. Tell us what you think. :biggrin:

Kidding aside, the more I hear about how Zagat does business, the more vacuous the guide seems. I can't imagine wasting my time on something with a signal to noise ratio that low. I think the problem lies in catering to the impulse to get maximum return for minimum involvement. That is not a force for good. It is, in fact, pretty damn destructive. Some things are just worth waiting for or taking some trouble over. Without anticipation, there is no sense of occasion. Without patience, the ability to perceive subtlety never comes.

Maybe the reason I like Montreal is that its food culture seems so much saner than much of the U.S. (Though I'm proud of the sustainable agriculture, artisinal foodstuffs thing we got going here in Vermont.)

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bethala, don't be shy. Tell us what you think.  :biggrin:

yeah, i think i talked way too much about zagat.

Kidding aside, the more I hear about how Zagat does business, the more vacuous the guide seems. I can't imagine wasting my time on something with a signal to noise ratio that low. I think the problem lies in catering to the impulse to get maximum return for minimum involvement. That is not a force for good. It is, in fact, pretty damn destructive. Some things are just worth waiting for or taking some trouble over. Without anticipation, there is no sense of occasion. Without patience, the ability to perceive subtlety never comes.

i think that about sums it up.

here's a link to an article about the way Zagat does business (scroll to bottom; great photo of tim & nina):

http://danielavery.blogspot.com/2004_12_01...ry_archive.html

and here's a link to a funny parody of Zagat:

http://www.modernhumorist.com/mh/0009/zagat/

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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  • 1 month later...

Years ago, when I started my ritual of going to New York twice a year to eat at different restaurants, I made the mistake of using the Zagat guide, and choosing where I'd eat based on their scores and list of best restaurants. The more restaurants I went to - and then read what Zagat said about them - the more I noticed how far off the mark they were.

Nevertheless, I recently signed up to be an online subscriber to their newsletter, which I find useful because it tells me what restaurants are opening in Boston, London, Paris and many other cities. That's how I heard about the MTL guide - I got an email asking me to vote, which I did, for the restaurants in MTL that I feel I know well. A few months later, I got the tiny, skinny MTL Zagat in the mail, I guess as a reward for my votes. I quickly noticed that the scores and rankings are laughable indeed, but you couldn't ask for a handier address and phone number directory: fits in any purse and weighs close to nothing! :)

Note to Zagats (if they ever read this): why not try to give the guide a little heft by adding restaurants in regions near Montreal, like the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships?

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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I would like to make it clear that I said they did not provide French surveys in the past.

As for the most recent web-based survey, I have no idea whether one was provided.

Just as a follow-up to this post of mine, I discovered that no, they did not provide the survey in French, which leaves out -- what? -- 75% of the population?

Also, Alex I agree with you about going a bit outside the city to add some heft. But first I would recommend they actually look in the city as well and add restaurants like Bice, Prima Donna, Le Piemontais, Da Vinci, Chez Queux -- just to name a few. :hmmm:

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While no Zagat apologist, I would suggest that the diners who provide opinions for Zagat are not unlike the diners that provide opinions for eGullet!

While they take a "populist" approach, the critics who take swipes at Zagat's Guides would seem to simply be defending their turf.

"Always consider the source" is fine advice my daddy gave me. It goes for a review one reads (anywhere) as well as the critic of the review.

That's not a swipe at, for instance, Lesley - as I love your perspective (and the book) and I trust your palate.

But Zagat's does generally represent something resembling popular concensus. If you know that isn't what you're looking for, no harm no foul.

Zagat's Guide's are criticized because they are an easy target. Look at, for instance, Robert Parker. He would seem to represent exactly what some of the commenters (above) want - a single (more or less), consistent, knowledgable, reliable source of criticism. But he basically gets hit with the same knocks as Zagat's. It's because they are both more influential than any other source of criticism in their respective fields. The only similarity is that they are both big targets.

(The lack of a French survey was an awfully bad oversight, I will admit. But the criticisms come from every market in which Zagat's publishes, not just Montreal.)

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While no Zagat apologist, I would suggest that the diners who provide opinions for Zagat are not unlike the diners that provide opinions for eGullet!

While they take a "populist" approach, the critics who take swipes at Zagat's Guides would seem to simply be defending their turf.

"Always consider the source" is fine advice my daddy gave me.  It goes for a review one reads (anywhere) as well as the critic of the review.

That's not a swipe at, for instance, Lesley - as I love your perspective (and the book) and I trust your palate. 

But Zagat's does generally represent something resembling popular concensus.  If you know that isn't what you're looking for, no harm no foul.

Zagat's Guide's are criticized because they are an easy target.  Look at, for instance, Robert Parker.  He would seem to represent exactly what some of the commenters (above) want - a single (more or less), consistent, knowledgable, reliable source of criticism.  But he basically gets hit with the same knocks as Zagat's.  It's because they are both more influential than any other source of criticism in their respective fields.  The only similarity is that they are both big targets.

(The lack of a French survey was an awfully bad oversight, I will admit.  But the criticisms come from every market in which Zagat's publishes, not just Montreal.)

Chris, no one is arguing for a "a single (more or less), consistent, knowledgable, reliable source of criticism". This is not an elitist vs. populist debate.

What kind of "popular consensus" do you imagine the guide represents if the people who do most of the dining out in this town weren't surveyed?

Montreal has a vibrant popular food culture, but you won't find an accurate representation of it in a Zagat guide because Zagat's methods are shoddy.

Edited by rcianci (log)
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Not everyone agrees with every criticism. One person's trusted source is hogwash to another. I have friends who live by these types of books and others that completely disagree.

Zagat has a certain demographic in mind and perhaps, for the initial editions, anglophones were the target. They are a well-seasoned marketing company and this is surely not an oversight.

Certainly, a glovebox review book should not encourage someone to despise a nation nor should said sentiment questions another's integrity.

Its a populist book and that's that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi,

Sorry I'm coming in late on this (I was on vacation).

As far as I know, my book, Flavourville, is out of print. I would not really recommend it anymore because it was written in 2002, which means it is seriously out of date, and if there's one thing a guide really should be it's up to date. I don't even have a copy anymore because I gave all mine away and can't find another one to buy.

I also have no intention of writing another guide (although one should never say never). It's a ton of work for minimal pay.

Trust me, if I had intended to write a new guide, I would have never taken on Zagat.

As for pay for the local Zagat editor, it was seriously low. How do I know? They asked me to write it.

I guess I'm still sore about that article in the Globe and Mail from a few years back when Tim Zagat called Montreal a backwater and said that you could eat better in St-Louis Missouri than our city. Grrr...

Another important point to clarify about the french surveys. When I wrote about the Zagat guide for the Montreal Gazette, I contacted the Zagat organization in NY and they told me French surveys had not been available. However, since then, I spoke to Maria Francesca who told me a French survey had been made available but that it wasn't as long (as in complete) as the English survey and that there was very little participation.

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Ok, from the perspective of a Montreal fine dining critic on top of her game, I agree Flavourville may be "out-of-date". But from someone who is visiting Montreal and has never been to L'Express etc it's not. I've used it a lot, still do, and everyone visting from Californa uses it. There is more to Montreal fine dining than the latest trendoid as we all know. A compact professional guide like Flavourville is very useful.

Sorry it's out of print. To bad you can't update it.

Actually you should put it on the web. Cull what's fallen by the wayside. Do some updates.

If your files are reasonably organised it could be put on the web in a few days work. Seriously.

You put some Google ads on each page and I am fairly sure you'd make enough for a few nice resto visits per month. And some. With very little extra work. And if you're up for it.... update it regularly with your new reviews.

Do you have web rights or can you get the copyright back from ECW?

Edited by sf&m (log)
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Hmmm...good idea.

Still, there's a lot to think about before handing all your reviews over for free. And a few nice resto visits are the last perks on my list (however, a few cases of wine or -- hey -- even some new clothes -- might make a site like that worth while :wink: ).

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Here's the thing....

You're not handing over your reviews for free.... you're making an investment to build an audience.

If you get that audience, you can monetize it. Besides, if your Flavourville manuscript is sitting in your desk drawer, it's not doing you nor anyone else any good.

And Google pays hard cold cash far as I know... of course I don't know if it would cover the Parisian Fall Haute Coutur budget of a hot shot Montreal resto critic.... might pay for the gloves I suppose...

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