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Minute on the Clock – Tim Zagat

15 September 2011 by
Minute on the Clock – Tim Zagat

Tim Zagat is co-chair of the Zagat Survey of international restaurant and travel guides, which he oversees together with his wife, Nina. He talks to Kerstin Kühn about their 2012 London restaurant guide

What are the main restaurant trends you have observed in London over the past 12 months? We measure trends according to 5,000 restaurant-goers who take part in our survey - this year 33% said things are better. Only 5% said things are worse so that's strong evidence things are improving. People also eat out more - 2.4 times a week compared with 2.2 last year. It seems a small change but a 10% increase across 5,000 people is phenomenal.

The price of dining out has gone up for the first time in three years according to your survey. What does this mean for the industry? The fact that the industry can charge higher prices but at the same time continue to attract increasing numbers of diners is a very good sign. Things have improved so much in London - 30 years ago the food here was a joke but I'd say London is now one of the top five cities for dining out in the world.

What are diners' pet hates when eating out in London? Service, service, service. Of our contributors, 73% cited service as their biggest area of complaints, which is terrible as it's an area that could be fixed more readily than others. Culinary creativity and diversity of restaurants in London are rated 22 and 25 out of 30 respectively but service is rated at just 13.

How can restaurants improve their level of service? The same way that back of house has improved: invest in schools and training. Hardly any culinary schools existed 30 years ago, but now they are everywhere. Front of house needs the same attention.

Last week, you announced that you have sold your business to Google. What will this mean for Zagat in the future? We've not made any major decisions yet but we're excited about all the technical expertise Google will bring to the table. We know how to properly conduct surveys so we feel it's a wonderful marriage with a company that really understands us.

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