For years, I've seen restaurants proudly place "Zagat rated" signs on their doors or in their windows. Granted, I never really bothered to read to see exactly what their ratings were. I've also never bothered to pick up a Zagat guide to decide where to eat (and the presence or absence of "Zagat rated" sign influenced my decision to patronized a restaurant). However, I always sort of assumed that someone, out there, must have found value in the "recognition". I figured that there must be some value to the "Zagat" brand that restaurants bothered to put the signs in their windows.
Recently, however, Zagat gave KFC some kind of "best fried chicken" rating. Now, I have several problems with this. For starters, how can one give out an award for chain food? I mean, chain food, by it's very definition, is the food equivalent of an industrialized or mass-produced eating experience. Second, if you're going to give a rating to a chain food, how the hell can you justify giving it to KFC? I mean, KFC's food is truly mediocre. I've had a lot of fried chicken, over the years. None of the mass-produced stuff out there is as good as any number of mom & pop shops' stuff (I've had some great fried chicken in places like Memphis, Dallas and a number of other southern locales). So, there's an immediate "red-flag" on the validity of the rating. And, even of the chain food places out there, KFC sucks compared to places like Popeyes (seriously: how can you have "the best fried chicken" when you don't offer a spicy fried chicken??).
At the end of the day, when I see KFC flogging that "best fried chicken" Zagat-rating in their commercials, it pretty much renders any other Zagat ratings I see meaningless. It makes me wonder, "how much did KFC pay for that rating". It also makes me wonder how much financial trouble Zagat was in that they would have sold that rating. I mean, I have to believe that somebody at Zagat stopped to think "if we give out this rating, we severely damage our credibility". So, I'd have to assume that they'd want to make such damage worthwhile. I mean, at this point, if I see a restaurant sporting a Zagat sign, I'm gonna have to ask the manager, "so, how's it feel to be in the same class as KFC?"