Commentary

JPMorgan's Purchase Of Zagat Owner Points To Post-COVID Future

JPMorgan Chase this week agreed to buy restaurant review publisher The Infatuation as part of the bank’s effort to offer more rewards to credit-card customers. The planned acquisition signals an optimistic outlook for the restaurant industry when the pandemic is less threatening.

The deal includes the Zagat brand of restaurant guides, which The Infatuation bought from Google three years ago, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The Infatuationalso hosts a twice-yearly food festival called Eeeeeatscon, where attendees eat restaurant food in a stadium while listening to live music and speakers.

Record executives Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal founded The Infatuation in 2009 and have grown the media company into a global brand. It doesn’t disclose its finances or whether it is profitable. Stang will continue to run the company as a separate brand from JPMorgan, the WSJ reported.
The purchase of a media company is unusual for a bank, though not necessarily in the context of the charge-card business.  American Express for years published magazines including Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine before selling the business to Time Inc. eight years ago. (Meredith subsequently bought Time in 2017.)
JPMorgan is seeking to differentiate its credit-card business with rewards after introducing its Chase Dining service on its Ultimate Rewards site, offering cardholders perks that include reservations at trendy restaurants. JPMorgan will give some customers access to The Infatuation’s curated experiences, such as its food festival, along with exclusive digital content.
The acquisition indicates that JPMorgan foresees a stronger comeback for the restaurant and travel industries after the pandemic kept many people at home. The bank's higher-income customers likely saved money in the past year and a half, and are ready to splurge on experiences like those featured in The Infatuation.  

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