Groupon and LivingSocial don't own the businesses they offer deals on, which just might make Google the first to do so with its deal today for 56% off Zagat print restaurant guides for eight U.S. cities plus its America's Top Restaurants book -- a deal clearly intended for holiday gift-buyers with foodie friends and family.
Google announced its acquisition of restaurant-review publisher Zagat in September for an undisclosed amount, and Google sources told LAUNCH at that time that it would keep the Zagat brand and its subscription model for online content. In 2009, Google failed to buy Yelp, which filed its IPO paperwork last month.
So far, Google is not placing Zagat's online reviews above those from Yelp. We found that clicking on a Zagat link, which appears toward the bottom of the first page of Google search results, yields either a preview of Zagat's subscription content or very limited information with info on how to subscribe.
Google Offers, which is selling the Zagat guides for $7 instead of $14.95-$15.95, notes there is "limited availability"; also, the deal is limited to 10 guides per person. LAUNCH has asked Google for more details about the Zagat deal and will update if we receive a response.
The eight cities included in the deal are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles/So. California, Miami/So. Florida, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC/Baltimore.
If you visit the Google Offers pages for those cities, you'll see the Zagat deal as the top item for most of them, as well as on the Long Beach page for the Los Angeles guide, but it's not the top item for the Chicago or Washington, DC pages. Those cities have restaurant deals, and the Washington, DC one includes a Zagat-branded photo.
We noticed that the San Francisco guide deal was not even listed for Oakland/East Bay, nor was the New York guide deal listed for NYC Uptown. Does Google think people in those parts of their respective metro areas don't want to buy Zagat guides?
Google Offers, still in beta, launched in June in Portland, Oregon, and is now available in 35 markets nationwide. Offers are not yet available in international markets.