The banking Goliath says the review and guide site — which oversees Zagat — will maintain independence, but Chase credit card holders could receive special perks like curated dining experiences
Restaurant website the Infatuation states its goal as bringing “you the most honest and trustworthy opinions on where to eat around the world.” And now those opinions will be under the purview of JPMorgan Chase, which according to the Wall Street Journal, has acquired the site, along with its apps, its Eeeeeatscon festival, and restaurant rating resource Zagat, which The Infatuation purchased in 2018.
“We’ve long admired The Infatuation’s fresh approach to reaching people with relatable content that inspires new ways to experience life through food and drink, whether it’s down the street or across the globe,” Marianne Lake, co-CEO of Chase, said in a statement. “We look forward to building on our complementary missions of connecting people to experiences around a shared passion for dining.” She added, “…we anticipate our collaboration will create more ways to engage our growing base of shared customers through dining and experiences.”
As the WSJ notes, “banks don’t usually buy media companies.” However, banks and credit card companies have increasingly been partnering with the restaurant business, using exclusive reservations and events as in-demand credit card perks. In 2019, American Express acquired Resy, a site which allows users to make reservations over its website and app, while providing digital services for restaurants themselves. Because of the Resy acquisition, AmEx users now have better access to hard-to-get reservations.
While Resy (which was founded by Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal) does have editorial content, it is mostly a booking platform. The Infatuation, on the other hand, provides guides and reviews of restaurants. And now, it will also offer perks to Chase customers: Per the WSJ, “JPMorgan plans to give some of its customers, including credit-card holders, special access to the Infatuation’s curated experiences,” such as Eeeeeatscon, as well as to exclusive web content. Given that JPMorgan Chase has recently added added Chase Dining to its credit card rewards, helping cardholders get reservations at partnered restaurants and offers perks like private events with chefs, it seems likely that the Infatuation and the Zagat brand will become part of that curation.
The more restaurant reservations become tied to elite credit cards, the experience of dining out becomes more stratified and banks — perhaps obviously — get richer. At Vox, Emily Stewart wrote, “Every time a credit card is swiped, the bank charges a fee. It seems trivial, but those fees add up — enough to help pay for rewards like points-funded hotel rooms and cash back…To compensate, businesses raise prices, and so cash users (who tend to be poorer) are often subsidizing the perks going to credit card users (who tend to be richer). And the higher the rewards, the bigger the cost to the unsuspecting people paying for it.”
Chase says the Infatuation will remain a distinct brand under the company, which ideally means that the site will maintain its editorial freedom. But in a world driven by endless perk competition for well-heeled credit card users — who themselves pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year in fees for those perks — you’re going to need the right card for the easiest access to things you want.