Tim and Nina Zagat

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Nina S. Zagat (née Safronoff) and her husband, Eugene Henry "Tim" Zagat, Jr. (born 1940, New York City) (pronounced /zəˈɡæt/ ) are the founders and publishers of Zagat Restaurant Surveys. They met at Yale Law School and were both practicing attorneys when they founded Zagat Surveys. [1] [2]


Early life

The Zagats married during law school, graduated in 1966, and moved to New York where they became corporate lawyers. [3]

Law careers

Nina Zagat was an associate with the Wall Street white shoe firm Shearman & Sterling, [4] where she gained notability acting as Seward Johnson's attorney and author and executor of his 1983 will. She represented his widow, Barbara "Basia" Piasecka Johnson, while the will was contested by his children; The Washington Post quotes an affidavit by the children's attorney that described her relationship to her client as "a contemporary, traveling companion and close personal friend whose recompense for loyalty to and support of Basia was the extraordinary compensation." Zagat maintained that "she acted according to Seward's instructions" and the suit was settled out of court. [5]

Both were employed in Paris—he at office of the Hughes Hubbard law firm, and she with Shearman & Sterling. While there, they started compiling their own list of Parisian restaurants, of what they liked and didn't like, and conceived the idea for a new type of restaurant ratings guide.[ citation needed ]

Zagat Survey

When the Zagats returned to New York, they solicited the opinions of friends about New York restaurants; the resulting compilation eventually became Zagat. [2] They published their first guide in 1982, for New York City, selling 7,500 copies in local bookstores. [3] Two years later, when selling 40,000 copies per year; they each quit their jobs as corporate lawyers to pursue the enterprise full-time. [3]

One reviewer described the methodology: "The philosophy behind the Zagat Survey is that instead of one lengthy critical review of a restaurant, the eating public is better served by a rating based on hundreds of responses. By tabulating the responses to detailed surveys, the Zagat Survey rates restaurants on a 30-point scale in the categories of food, décor, service and cost. It also provides price estimates and a pithy, paragraph-sized description." [1]

The company expanded to include other cities and market segments such as hotels, stores and clubs; in early 2008, the couple tried to sell the company for $200 million, but then withdrew the sale when they could not find prospective buyers at that price. [2] One reviewer wrote: "The Zagat Survey was once the sine qua non of restaurant guidebooks. Aside from a review in the paper, the survey's 30-point scale for food, service, and décor—and its quirky comments submitted by readers—was pretty much all that mattered to restaurateurs. While the book's ratings are still highly influential—and while the company remains highly profitable—the guide is no longer the indispensable possession it once was and it's clear that its influence has waned in recent years." [3] The relative decline was attributed to the company's "online strategy" which made the guide only available to paying subscribers. [3]

Personal life

The Jewish-American couple have two sons, Ted and John, [1] and live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York. [6] The pair were acquainted with Jeffrey Epstein and flew on his private plane dubbed the Lolita Express. [7]

Stabbing incident

On November 15, 1990, Tim Zagat was watching Dances With Wolves at a Loews movie theater in New York City. An "apparently deranged" man, seated in the same row, made loud, obscene comments to others before the movie began. During the film, the man stabbed Zagat until an anonymous moviegoer pulled the attacker off of Zagat. [8] The attacker fled out a side exit but police apprehended the suspect a few days later. Zagat received superficial wounds and was taken to Roosevelt Hospital. [3]

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  1. 1 2 3 "Tim and Nina Zagat Biography". bio. 2002. Archived from the original on 2009-12-13. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  2. 1 2 3 Sheryl Julian (April 22, 2009). "Critic of All He Surveys". The Boston Globe. Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Tim Zagat (see section: Close Call)". cityfile new york. 2009-10-20. Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  4. [ "Tim and Nina Zagat: Move Over, Michelin". Business Week. October 28, 1991. Archived from the original on November 5, 2011.
  5. Paula Span (March 13, 1986). "Nina Zagat and a $500 Million Battle of Wills". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  6. Vanita Salisbury (March 10, 2009). "Nina and Tim Zagat's Favorite New Yorkers Are Each Other". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  7. "Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling?". New York Magazine. July 22, 2019. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  8. "Publisher Is Stabbed In a Sudden Attack In a Movie Theater". The New York Times. November 15, 1990. Retrieved 2009-10-20.