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Birth To Billions: Zagat Survey

The creators of America's bestselling restaurant guides are masters of all they survey.

You're planning to descend upon New Orleans-an eating mecca known for its extraordinary creole cuisine-and don't have the foggiest idea where to eat. Any sophisticated traveler will tell you the simple solution: Pick up a copy of the current Zagat New Orleans Restaurant Survey for a list of the city's best restaurants in all price categories. Within 10 minutes, you'll have a rundown of the best restaurants in town-ranked by food, decor, service, cost and more.

No seasoned traveler would think of boarding a plane without a copy of the Zagat survey for their intended destination. In the space of a decade, the famed restaurant guides, which rate more than 15,000 restaurants in 50 cities across the United States and Canada, have become an institution among discerning restaurant-goers. The $10.95 pocket paperbacks are gobbled up as soon as they roll off the press. Don Rieck, manager of Doubleday Books' posh midtown Manhattan location, says the Zagat New York Restaurant Survey is the bestselling book in the store's history.

The brains behind the Zagat publishing empire are a most unlikely pair. Husband-and-wife team Tim and Nina Zagat (56 and 54, respectively) never expected to get into the restaurant-rating business, much less one day see multimillion-dollar sales figures. How did these two former corporate fast-trackers turn into rising entrepreneurial stars?

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This article was originally published in the August 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Birth To Billions: Zagat Survey.

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