Business

JPMorgan buys restaurant reviews group behind Zagat guide

JPMorgan Chase & Co updates

JPMorgan Chase has agreed to acquire the owner of the restaurant review guide Zagat, as America’s largest bank looks to win a greater share of the payments consumers make while dining out. 

The US bank said it acquired The Infatuation, which in just over a decade has grown from a New York-focused “where to eat” blog into a restaurant and bar review media and event empire, for an undisclosed sum. 

Hospitality focused businesses have struggled during the pandemic, with many consumers still avoiding restaurants and large gatherings due to fears over the rapidly-spreading Delta variant.

Once the deal is completed, JPMorgan is likely to integrate the media content generated by The Infatuation’s multiple platforms into its existing consumer products, which already link up with restaurants and other venues.

The Chase brand last year launched a dining hub with access to more than 4,000 restaurants in partnership with reservation platform Tock. The bank’s Sapphire Reserve and Preferred credit card holders also receive access to deals with restaurants and bars. 

“The deal aims to accelerate the firm’s investment in dining, and further demonstrates JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to meeting customers where they are with exceptional benefits, useful content and one-of-a-kind experiences, at scale,” JPMorgan said in a statement. 

Banks are jockeying for a chunk of credit card spending that as rebounded as consumers loosen their purse strings following months of Covid restrictions. The move could also build customer allegiance as traditional perks such as cashback, airline miles and loyalty points become increasingly expensive for banks.

Rewards rates reached new heights last year as lenders tried to lure consumers into charging more on their credit cards after pandemic stimulus programmes depressed loan demand. But, the cost of rewards had become so high that they threatened to exceed how much lenders earn on interchange fees for basic cards, analysts said.

JPMorgan’s deal is comparable to American Express’s decision in 2019 to acquire Resy, the digital restaurant booking platform. Amex, which is known for its high-end credit cards with exclusive perks, has recently launched an exclusive dining programme for cardholders through Resy. 

The Infatuation, which was launched in 2009 by Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal, has millions of monthly users across its platforms and is particularly popular among millennials. About three years ago it acquired Zagat from Google, which acquired the burgundy-coloured guides for $151m in 2011 from founders Tim and Nina Zagat. 

In addition to its restaurant reviews, which cover over 50 US cities and foreign locations, The Infatuation holds live dining events including a bicoastal food festival.

The Infatuation will continue to be operated as a separate business with its distinct management team. Stang will remain its chief executive.

“This partnership with JPMorgan Chase provides an incredible opportunity for us to engage with more people around the world and continue on The Infatuation’s mission of delivering the most useful and trustworthy recommendations in dining and travel,” said Stang.


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