YELP: Restaurant Friend or Foe?

Restaurants are notorious for having an adversarial relationship with Yelp and other user-generated review sites. One bad review from a disgruntled diner and it’s enough to send even the most Zen restaurant owner over the edge.

The dining decision making process has changed and restaurants need to work strategically with both their advocates and the review sites to generate positive word of mouth that drives thousands of diners into restaurants each night in San Francisco alone. Based on our dining decision ecosytem study, most diners rely on friends first and secondarily on review sites before choosing a restaurant.
Frustrated With User Generated Reviews
It’s not surprising that potential diners rely on user-generated review sites, they can compare and contrast restaurants in seconds to help them quickly and accurately make decisions. And diners, after having a ‘wow’ experience, whether good, bad or ugly, will turn to sites such as Yelp to vent or rave for all the world to see.

But restaurants really do wield enormous influence over those reviews, although if you’re looking for ‘control’ over your brand message, let’s just dispense with that out of date thinking now.
Consumers have always had the upper hand in defining restaurants for their friends, family and co-workers. Now, because of social media, restaurants are able to ‘hear’ what used to be private conversations around the water cooler.

Many restaurants are leveraging the power of review sites by providing their brand advocates with encouragement and tools to generate content for them.
McKayla is not impressed with Yelp
By activating their biggest fans, these restaurants are taking the reins and making Yelp work in their favor. It should be noted, when I refer to ‘encouragement’, in no way should you provide any type of material compensation for advocates posting reviews. Among other issues, it’s against most review sites terms and conditions.


One of our restaurant clients used Angelsmith’s recommendation engine software to ask its customers if they would be willing to write a review. Those that clicked on the embedded link were taken directly to the restaurant’s pages on select review sites. When using a tool to prompt reviews, our restaurant clients are reporting between 12 to 25 percent response rate.

To virtually eliminate negative reviews, Angelsmith runs an accessement campaign to identify those most likely to provide a positive review. However, negative reviews can still take place. For more information on how to manage negative reviews, click here: Managing Negative Social Media Reviews

Generate Positive Restaurant Reviews
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just provide an awesome dining experience. Consumers need a little encouragement to post reviews. I realized this when, phone in hand dialing my favorite Hawaiian resort to tell them about our recommendation engine, I realized I hadn’t written my own review. It just didn’t occur to me to do it. But like most advocates, I really want to see them succeed, so I hung up the phone and wrote a glowing review on Tripadvisor.

User-generated review sites are not the enemy that many restaurateurs believe. The true enemy to restaurants is remaining passive and letting others define the dining experience. Restaurants have the opportunity to turn foes into friends by finding ways to help your biggest advocates spread positive word of mouth on user-generated review sites. Just like when you turn a disgruntled customer on the floor into a lifelong diner, changing your approach to user-generated review sites can have the same positive financial impact on your restaurant’s bottom line.

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Photo credits:
Headshot by Tyler Oliver
'Frustration' by Thorinside
'McKayla Is Not Impressed By Yelp' by Eric Oliver, Angelsmith
'Enjoyment' by Lorenia