NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Zagat announced big changes to its website Tuesday, adding more free content and a more social aspect to its review system.

While “curated reviews” – Zagat’s famous 30-point scale that rates restaurants on food, décor and service – remain behind a $24.95 pay wall, any user can now see what percentage of reviewers gave an establishment a positive grade. Zagat is also touting its new search function, which allows users to search by cuisine and neighborhood, and premium members can also narrow their search to include only restaurants above a certain rating.

“We’ve put the power in the consumer to pick what they want,” co-founder Nina Zagat told MainStreet.

While Zagat and its famed “burgundy bibles” pioneered the idea of user-generated restaurant reviews and became a trusted name, it has faced stiff competition in recent years from free review sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and MenuPages.

It comes as no surprise then, that the new Zagat places a special emphasis on the social aspect of the reviews. Like Yelp, Zagat reviewers now have enhanced profiles, including “badges” rewarding them for frequent or witty reviews. And for the first time, the signature pithy quotes that appear in curated reviews now link back to the member who wrote it (unless the user has opted to remain private).

“When we first started in 1979, we were printing up paper questionnaires and giving them to friends,” Zagat said. “Zagat at its core has always been social, and now it’s more social.”

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