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Familiar logo that conjures a love-hate relationship with owners. 

Familiar logo that conjures a love-hate relationship with owners. 

Are you a skeptic when it comes to YELP? As owners of restaurants, we are.  This topic is visceral, real, and even unpleasant. I’m actually conflicted:  as a restaurant person, I too can get annoyed by YELP. As a customer, I'll admit my truth: I find the app useful at times (more on this below!). We’ve all be burned by customers spouting off what they think. Our response at that moment is to say, “they have no idea what was really going on!” But we all know a response must be formed.  I recently had a conversation with a YELP team member, and I’ll share what I learned because it’s useful to the community of owners. I’ll dig into the pros and cons, and then concluded with my takeaway.

Before I give you the pros and cons, I’m going to play devils advocate for a moment. You need to be in the head of your guest. Since I can see both sides of business more than the restaurant owners I help, let me give you my perspective as an educated consumer.  I travel.  I travel to clients, and to grow this wonderful business by researching locally and internationally. And I travel because I love travel.  Turns out that travel puts me in the mind of a guest.   I need advice on the city I'm visiting.  So on my recent two trips to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Washington, DC,  I turned to my Google Map.  It points me to YELP.  My reaction was annoyance. “Ugh, I hate that app”. I felt tricked as I searched for “cafes” “restaurants” “breweries” and "caterers".  But I kept going, because apps are convenient!  Turns out it’s convenient AND informative.  If used the right way, you as the owner can build that narrative in the right direction. 

images on YELP does accurately give a snapshot of the look your restaurant

images on YELP does accurately give a snapshot of the look your restaurant


TIP #1: Check your profile!

Does yourYELP profile exist?  Is it accurate?  Update it with the correct hours, web links, and your photos -- which are generally better than what imports from reviews.  (Remember too, check Open Table, and Trip Advisor to see your presence there) Check the following for accuracy:

  • website link
  • contact info is correct: phone number, address
  • pictures: you can upload good quality photos. You can also ask favorite customers to review, and ask them to put good photos up.

TIP #2: Read your reviews

Read your reviews. If necessary put some calendar reminder, so that you actually check that you know what people are saying.  If there a negative review?  Respond publicly and privately to each one of those.  Is there a stellar review?  A short response, and a thank you is a nice thing to do. 

TIP 3: Consider advertising on YELP

Advertising on YELP wasn’t going to be in the PRO column, but it belongs here.  Why?  Because you only pay for clicks, and those are more likely to turn into consumers, and will definitely get your name in front of people searching for your definition of your business. And, while I hate that this is true, the return you get on a pay-for-click ad is so much higher than just listing your profile. Not to mention, YELP recognizes how we owners resist spending actual money on advertising, so they regularly give you $300 incentives. That can take you from one month of ads to two for one! You can set your budget, and Yelp staff will work with you to gain traction! 


TIP #1:  The bad reviews are hard to go away or diminish.

The fewer reviews you have the more heavily weighted each review is.  New businesses do ask for their investors and inner circle to write a review.  Just because they are your inner circle doesn’t mean they’ll give you a ridiculous five star review that gives you a line out the door!  In fact the more real those reviews are, the more likely new customers will arrive to your place with the correct expectation.  And expectations are everything in our business. 

TIP #2: Theirs sales people stick with you. 

Fact is, you actually want them to stick with you.  Is that a pro and a con?  But as an owner you don’t have time to keep up with their frequency. Set boundaries that work for you and your time management. 

TIP #3: Four Stars and above

You’d like to keep your reviews at 4 stars or higher. There are stats on the internet showing how much more money you make when you have a 4 star rating, even more at 4.5, and of course 5 star keeps volume steady. That’s not always easy, and doesn’t happen quickly. You must discipline yourself to review your reviews regularly. This means you will be asking customers to write a review on your place -- after you see that they have had a good experience.  As an owner, asking for a review is awkward, unless you’ve practiced it regularly. But it’s still in the cons column, because you end up feeling schmarmy when you ask for a review. 

TAKEAWAY (pun intended)

If you’ve been in my community for a while you know I am eager to have you think beyond your four walls. Facing the pros and cons of YELP places you in the head of a guest, which should be your regular thought process, anyway. Face the music: Yelp, TripAdvisor and Open Table are available to guests.  Make your profile and reviews the best they can be.  

Here is an article Yelp is promoting.  4 Things You Didn't Know About Advertising On Yelp in 2018

Here is a great iconographic on Yelp.

Consider that when people use Yelp, they do shop locally. 

Consider that when people use Yelp, they do shop locally.