Finding A Restaurant with Tim Zagat
Above is the podcast I recorded with Todd Mundt on choosing a good restaurant. While the recession may be curtailing some spending habits of consumers it seems as though dining habits still haven’t changed that much . Over 40% of Americans eat out a couple of nights a week and are faced with the same agonizing decision. Just where should I go? A lot of times you can turn to your local newspaper, but then you’re beholden to the opinion of just one critic. With the advent of the internet, there are plenty of sites that are willing to give you advice such as yelp and dine.com
But I’ve always been a fan of the Zagat’s little red book (and now also the website) since their approach is to rate restaurants based on the opinions of many. According to the company’s co-founder Tim Zagat (and that’s Zagat “like the Cat in the Hat” for all of you who were wondering)
Zagat’s restaurant survey include the reviews of 400,000 people voting on 40,000 restaurants and they rate things such as food, price, decor, and service. The big thing that sets Zagat’s apart is how they weed out their surveyors. Tim Zagat says their reviewers are “people who eat out all the time, people in white collar jobs, the kinds of people who are members of the different food and wines societies.” With these other sites, who knows whether or not it’s the chef’s mother giving the joint a 5 star rating.
But Tim Zagat will still try out a restaurant on his own from time to time. He says he usually has a pretty good sense of what is good just by standing in the doorway. This is his advice for sizing up a place:
1) Go in and see how many people are there (presumably the more crowded the better.)
2) See if they’re “chomping away happily”.
3) Look at the plates passing by and their presentation.
4) Look at the menu and see how much it costs and whether if it’s affected or straight forward.
5) Check out the decor of the restaurant.
Tim Zagat told me “almost everything about the restaurant is understandable, except exactly what the food tastes like.”
As for me, I pick my restaurants based on a number of factors but mostly surveys and reviews. But occasionally I’ll ask for opinions. This is where it can get dicey, knowing who to trust since tastes and tolerance for bad service vary greatly. What I like to do is size my friends up and set a baseline for comparison, ask them to rate a place I already know and go from there.
Oh and once you pick your place here are some tips on how to handle bad service.