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Yelp


Alchemist
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Yelp is business oriented and caters to the restaurant industry, not the consumer.Or, should I say it tries to suck in consumers. :laugh:

IMO it's very difficult to find much helpful and unbiased review of the eateries.

I'll pass on Yelp.

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I'm fairly convinced that the lawsuit claims are very close to baseless, but there's certainly the possibility that a few ad sales people misrepresented what ads can do; it's far more likely, considering the contract that you have to sign before cutting a deal explicitly says you can't have things deleted because they disappoint you, that potential advertisers interpreted the pitch the way they wanted to.

Any sort of Bayesian filtering mechanism that prunes content for any reason is open to claims of bias; I recall a spam filter was once accused of intentionally being designed to block an electronic greeting card company, and the suit may have actually won, even though most of the "bias" came from user categorization. The claims about deleted reviews strike me as questionable. A number of companies that have a bunch of reviews from people with no other history, and those tend to be removed from the review list if they have no future activity, but they still exist under that user's profile. If those users start to become more active, generally those one-time drive-by users start to be perceived by the statistical model as real people, and the reviews show up again.

For review quality, on Yelp things are all over the map. I'm a frequent contributor, and I admit that I now use it more than Urbanspoon, which I generally find a better indicator of restaurant quality because of differences in the people who frequent it, and the simple binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" participation requirement. Urbanspoon tends to have more people who are passionate about food and have fairly broad experience. Yelp still tends to have lots of people who just like expressing their opinion about anything, so, like "professional" restaurant reviews, to get much value out of the site you must gradually become familiar with reviewers whose tastes and biases are somewhat compatible with your own. Fortunately, there are pretty good tools for adding reviewers to your favorites, or associating people with you as "friends", so it's pretty easy to set up your Yelp account to show you the most relevant reviews to you first.

Yelp is no more anonymous than eGullet is. Professional reviewers tend to have their own flaws; I've seen some pretty embarrassingly wrong things written about food/restaurants in local papers by reviewers with more limited experience than I have. At Yelp, you build your identity over time by posting more reviews and participating in the site. That's true for professional reviews as well, just as it's true for bloggers or, realistically, even chefs. It's just a very contemporary model of identity. The first time you go to Yelp, you'll have no idea who to trust. But realistically, I had the same problem when reading reviews in the local papers. I found that one or two professional reviewers had enough in common with my taste that I could trust them on most reviews without reservation, and others I had to look for hints; for example, I tended to ignore professional reviewers that were impressed by portion size or focused on price/value a lot, because mostly they weren't eating out for the same reasons as me and their expectations for food quality were quite different than mine. I have to build the same filters on Yelp or Urbanspoon.

For restaurant owners, reading Yelp should help them identify patterns of problems that they can respond to. A few bad reviews from people who don't really appreciate your concept don't matter, unless your concept is failing.

Witness Yelp reviews for a nifty cocktail bar Zig Zag in Seattle: I saw someone complain about the quality of a Long Island Iced Tea that the received there. Who the hell wants to order a Long Island Iced Tea anywhere other than a college bar? When was that drink ever a good idea? But on average, most of the positive reviews come from people who seem to like quality crafted cocktails, or were surprised/delighted that there was something more interesting than a Vodka Cranberry and had a small moment of cocktail enlightenment. Most of the legitimate (to me, of course) complaints about the place are about the food quality; if they felt that it would contribute to their bottom line to improve food quality, such comments might tell Zig Zag something useful. But if that's not what Zig Zag's about, so be it, they still serve a great cocktail list.

Owners and chefs can also make small failings right; some have offered negative reviewers a coupon for a future visit or some sort of comp, which is probably nice for some people, but to me a little unnecessary. Now that owners can respond to reviews directly rather than needing to send a private message, a polite recognition of a weakness or a bad night and an explanation of what corrective action has been done will often go a long way to improve a shop's reputation.

Some owners have contacted me because of my reviews, so far all appreciative and either soliciting feedback for improvement, or proud of some small thing that I happened to notice. One pizza shop owner said, "to be compared with my child-hood fun palace is awesome!" because I compared his shop to a place I had also grown up with.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I'm fairly convinced that the lawsuit claims are very close to baseless, but there's certainly the possibility that a few ad sales people misrepresented what ads can do;

But have you talked to many restaurant owners who have been contacted by yelp?

Edited by tim (log)
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Only a few.

But more importantly, nobody's publicly released anything remotely incriminating so far. No contract language that substantiates these claims, no names of representatives, no recordings of conversations. The lack of any supporting evidence aside from paraphrasing of mostly second-hand accounts makes me deeply suspicious.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think as you get familiar with the site and the reviewers on the site, you do get a sense of who's reviews are more reliable and who's aren't. All restaurant reviews are subjective, be it by a yelper or a professional food critic. People's tastes are different and their perspectives are different. If your taste happens to be more similar to a particular food critic than to a particular yelper, than you'll find the food critic's review more useful. If the opposite is true, than the yelp review is more helpful to you.

This is my experience. I was fortunate to have a Chowhound friend, who uses and posts to Yelp, give me the names of some Yelpers (in our area), that she trusted. I then found that I could trust most of them regarding their Yelp posts. Joe Blow, not so much. Way too many five stars and hyperbole. It is an easy to search, first place to look site.

Banished from Chowhound; I like it just fine on eGullet!

If you`re not big enough to lose, you`re not big enough to win! Try this jalapeno, son. It ain't hot...

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  • 3 months later...

Did anyone else read the "dear BA foodist" article about food blogs and Yelp sites in Bon Appetit (JULY 2010)? I find these to be very inforative and insightfull to myself and the rest of the staff. In our monthly staff meetings we even read these review sites as a point of refenence and another gauge besides comment cards to see how we are really doing. I find when most diners are encountered with the question "how is everything?" or other similar inqiries these people usually say fine then evicerate you later in comment cards or blogs, friends, etc. I personally like to know my flaws so I can fix them or do the best that I can to accomodate. I personally use these sites and agree with Andrew Knowlton in saying don't get in back and forth communications with these bloggers and amature reviewers. I even had a "bribe" come from a location in Wicker Park Chicago if I took down my poor review. I personally find all of these replies a desperate attempt to whitewash a bad experience. My contention is these are great for diners (and me) to find out what your average Joe thinks of his service. Of course we treat food critics better than your average diner... why wouldn't we if we knew who they were (and 90% of the time we do)? I like the fact that these sites catch us off gaurd. It shows me how I and my team are doing even when we think no one is watching. Like all systems though this will have flaws and people that are just plain vindictive. But overall, I personally love them. Your thoughts?

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I think in a general sense, they can indicate if you are doing decent, or if there are areas that your place needs some help with - but anything more than that, I tend to take anything off Yelp with a grain of salt, good or bad.

As mean and horrible as this sounds, most people posting on Yelp and the like really have no idea what they are talking about. From what i've noticed, whether it's about where I work or not, people on there will burn a place for the most asinine reasons, or praise it with obvious bias. Give people a monitor to hide behind, and suddenly they become an expert. I don't take those sites seriously for the most part, unless the general consensus is really leaning one way or another.

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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  • 5 years later...
On ‎3‎/‎31‎/‎2010 at 2:44 PM, Scargo said:

This is my experience. I was fortunate to have a Chowhound friend, who uses and posts to Yelp, give me the names of some Yelpers (in our area), that she trusted. I then found that I could trust most of them regarding their Yelp posts. Joe Blow, not so much. Way too many five stars and hyperbole. It is an easy to search, first place to look site.

 I think this is the key.  I came looking for this thread when I felt a bit burned today by Yelp for a four star reviews on a restaurant I recommended that turned out to be pretty bad.  I probably would've gone there anyway at some point since it's so close to my house that it is only a matter of time before someone asks me about it.  Still, the aggregate review score led me to believe that it would be pretty good.

 

Not.

 

There was one negative review that stuck in my mind that agreed with my experience.  It was from a local, so I looked up her other reviews.  I found that she had rated a certain hole-in-the-wall diner as highly as I would have.  There were other reviews of hers that generally agreed with my experience.  As well as one also recommended by Huiray.

 

By contrast, one terribly negative review was by a guy who arrived 20 minutes before closing, saw the final cleanup occurring and was told that they'd have to package his order to-go.  So he said okay, and then his party proceeded to sit down with their order.  Regardless of the finer points here, I wrote this guy off as an asshole.  After reading Scargo's quote above, I looked into his other reviews.  He had a number of others, but not a single food service related review.

 

So I think you don't necessarily have to have a Chowhound friend (at least for your own area).  But you do need to yelp-visit all the places you're familiar with and find those people who generally agree with your assessment.

 

I wonder if Yelp has an API that would allow aggregate scores from a given subset of reviewers.  Perhaps an eGullet-trusted-reviewer-index could be created for a variety of localities.

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