Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Yelp. Or How I learned to stop worrying and love my restaurants

banana cream pie

1)The Yelp mobile app is nigh on useless for me. I need to skim mass amounts of reviews in order to get a good sense of what I'm looking for.

2) Where are you? Are you somewhere that has a strong Yelp presence? Does every restaurant have reviews? Otherwise chowhound or whatever local review system is being used is a way better idea. Yelp in Indiana? Useless. I tried. I failed.

3) Who is reviewing this place? If it's people that have just a few reviews, then this is a restaurant that makes people go out of their way to review it. It's a place that makes people have strong opinions. Even if the opinions are mediocre. They're strong neutral opinions. If the people who are reviewing this claim that they "know" the food they're eating, be distrustful. It's the internet. People tend to talk big.

4) What is the complaint? Plenty of places that have great food have bad reviews because of poor locations or service. Parking can be a reason for stars to get taken away.

5) What do you care? Are you taking out the boss for dinner and need a place that can stand up with excellent service and an approachable wine list? Are you looking for delicious food and don't mind an hour long wait and/or poor service as long as the food can make you cry? Yelp is great with overall ratings, but you need to take a look at what matters to YOU.

6) Are the first reviews reflective of the overall rating? Sometimes the first few reviews can be negative. Don't let this fool you. Look at the overall rating, and then look at the specific comments. I've been told in the past that if companies don't pay yelp, their negative reviews are listed first. I don't have confirmation if this is true, but it would make sense.

7) When did they review it? It's easy for chefs or ownership to change, and the quality of a restaurant to either soar or bomb out. Take a look at recent activity. If something's changed, yelpers tend to notice and post.

8) What did people eat? Did they eat the specialty of the restaurant? Did they complain about the vegetarian options at a meat-centric restaurant? Did they complain that the General Tso's isn't very good at an authentic Shanghai style Chinese restaurant? If you're getting the wrong thing, of course your meal isn't going to be very good. This tends to happen more at ethnic restaurants. At the same time, this can tell you what you should order.

9) Take everything with a grain of salt. Yelp is not the final say. It can be accurate, and it can be inaccurate, and use your own opinion, judgment, and the judgment of others that you trust to help you decide.

Happy eating and you may be a special unicorn and you might disagree with Yelp. That is okay. Good Luck!

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