Back in September, when we wrote about Google taking a bite out of Zagat, we wondered if the Internet giant had plans to compete with Yelp. Google already allows users to give restaurants a star rating and to offer their thoughts on recent dining experiences. Zagat's database, containing professionally written as well as user-driven material, would give the Google restaurant guide an edge over Yelp's content, which is predominantly user-driven.
But Wall Street has even bigger plans for Google. Investors now think Google will go after Open Table, since that site has seen its share price cut by more than half since peaking in the spring at $118 a share. Share prices are currently trading in the mid-30s. In other words: Chump change, and an opportunity to pair the reservations game with Google's user-review system and Zagat's reviews, for a site that would render Yelp a quaint little thing of the past.
Imagine asking your iPhone: "Yo, Siri. Show me all the restaurants within five miles of my current location that are rated with four stars or more, three dollar signs or less, that also have availability in the next 30 minutes." Cheap dudes that botch their dinner reservations on a first date could theoretically save themselves with a single internet app. It's powerful stuff.
With that kind of potential, why would Google offer an internet-based restaurant rating system alone when it can also offer professionally written content about restaurants, location-based services and reservation services?
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Open Table, on the other hand, would have a difficult time offering similar services to its users, because it doesn't have the infrastructure or the coverage. Markets like Dallas (specifically referenced in the article) are only marginally served by the website.