Yelp. In the past, it’s the thing that could make or break your restaurant. A few bad reviews and low-star ratings would send you scrambling into a PR frenzi. Some could even argue that this is still the case when it comes to marketing towards new potential customers. However, there’s no denying that the power of Yelp is becoming less credible. While usage numbers might be steadily increasing, they are currently dealing with significant perception and trust issues.
Yelp has gotten the reputation of being a dumping ground for disgruntled feelings, instead of being a hub for restaurant praise, celebration, and constructive criticism. This off-kilter balance has left many looking for a great place to eat with a bad taste in their mouths. Yelp is losing touch with the users that review responsibly, and diners are starting to take notice.
Does this mean that reviews and opinions are being taken less seriously across the board? Absolutely not. Responsible reviewers are moving to more intimate outlets to let their voices be heard. We are witnessing the rise of customers using their personal social media platforms to state their opinions. Photos of food are popping up on the likes of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter like popcorn. While it’s harder to track down these foodies when they don’t use hashtags, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still blasting out their opinions to their respective audiences.
Perceptions aside, what do the hard numbers boil down to for Yelp? Around 142 million unique visitors pass through the site each month across the globe. To date, there are around 95 million reviews on Yelp, of which 44% are five star ratings, 32% are 3 stars or lower.
With restaurants being the second biggest category reviewed on Yelp, 19% of all reviews, you know that your image is always on the line. And, since mobile is by far the most preferred way for potential customers to both find and review your restaurant, customers are leaving reviews either while they are still at the restaurant or shortly after. Not giving themselves time to cool down from an unfortunate experience can lead to some of those strongly worded reviews we are always reading.
Interestingly enough, the smallest demographic participating in Yelp is the 18-34 bracket, at 29%, which may be a sign of things to come. Since younger generations usually define online and social trends, it is clear that reviews are moving away from Yelp.
However, in-app reviews are not going away anytime soon. Though the Yelper might be doomed to die a slow death unless significant changes are made, you can still utilize several in-app platforms to provide real time feedback on your dining experience. Also, reviews designed for direct customer to restaurant communication weeds out attention-seeking folks who have ulterior motives like that free meal or discount. The big question remains – as restaurateur, is it worth still worth paying for your Yelp account? While it would be premature to discontinue your presence on Yelp at this moment in time, it’s absolutely critical to stay proactive in finding the real, honest feedback that truly reflects your business.
So how can you stay front-of-mind to potential and existing customers? First and foremost – provide a good service and food experience. Second, always pay attention to conversations and feedback online, even on Yelp. Consider hiring a PR specialist who is trained in locating posts that might not be easy to find. Any place that allows for reviews or opinions is a site that you should be paying attention to. Share people’s positive experiences at your restaurant with your own audience. Build relationships with local food writers and take advantage of positive marketing opportunities. This will boost your SEO and start to reflect the true representation of your restaurant online.
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