Is Yelp Fair to Restaurants?

Categories: Chow Bella

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Chef Payton Curry,
Brat Haus

Yelp. Sure. The people? Maybe not so much. You get fired, you make a bogus claim about this that and the other. I don't read Yelp. I talk tableside, and that's not arrogance, that's Biergarten etiquette.

Andrew Nam,
Chef and Partner, Stingray Sushi, Jimmy Woo's Asian Bistro, Spanish Fly, Geisha A Go Go

Everyone knows that the posts on Yelp are padded both positive and negative. It's a good base for seeing what a place is about when you read the four-star reviews. 5 and 1 are a waste.

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Michael Monti,
Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja

Yelp is like a cross section of humanity -- you get all types of people. But it seems to favor attention whores who make egregious statements to make themselves sound witty.

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Kevin Binkley,
Chef and Owner, Binkley's and Café Bink

It's case by case. It's important to remember that the people writing are not professional food critics and that everyone's tastes are different.

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Yelp can be constructive of destructive depending on the person writing the review. I've written reviews for more than 16 years in various forums, and I've seen my share of both good and bad places. I agree that there are some who like to criticize for the sake of criticizing, but let's not paint the entire crowd with such a broad brush. 

When I evaluate a place, I'm not only looking at service, but the overall picture, including sanitation, venue, service, as well as food quality and quantity. I have written reviews that may be bad for an aspect of the place, yet other parts of it may be good. Writing a balanced review is a lot of work, and I often go back to a place several times just to make sure what I write is accurate.

Unlike some reviewers, I don't bring a camera crew with me, I don't accept any freebies, and I'm more than willing to discuss picobella's with a representative of the restaurant. 

My idea of a good restaurant is consistency.  I have evaluated one place in Scottsdale 7 times over 7 years, and the evaluation is the same each time. I've also evaluated places that some critics rave over, and left scratching my head wondering what they raved about. Sometimes one has to wonder if some critics have been paid off for a good review.

As for non-professional reviewers, I look at the writing style in making my determination of whether a review was worth reading or not. Arrogant, vitriolic reviews do not reflect a balanced point of view. Yes, I have evaluated one or two places that I have only given 1 star to because the food was so bad, but those places are far and few between. 

I also agree with those who have posted that they use it as a guide to things that may need fixing. I have chatted with more than one restaurant owner about things I have found wrong, and not one of them has ever come back and condemned me for writing it. Without exception, each one took my criticism seriously and corrected the problems that I found.

Lastly, I do not do face to face chats. My evaluations are successful because I am not recognized in restaurants. I don't brag about being a reviewer - I take my notes and as soon as I leave the restaurant I write the review while everything is still fresh in my head.


Deborah hit it on the head.  Yelp is a relative institution and has very weak points of reference.  If you utilize Yelp as a business owner take into account comments and fix the issues, that review still exists shining a negative light on your establishment.  Also you get about 20 phone calls a week until you ask them to stop calling you.  They offer no "Take no part" option, and are strong armed into updating it because your establishment is by base nature a negative establishment unless you cater to its needs.  

For smaller places or lower budgets Yelp is your worst nightmare if you are working on growing your establishment organically.  The best constructive criticism I receive is when a customer comes up and talks to me face to face.  It allows for immediate discourse. My best piece of constructive criticism came in the form of a letter written on a napkin and a phone number.  It was harsh, but I needed it, and it was handled within the week what was suggested.

There are some things that social media cannot replace, and that is a good ol'fashioned face to face chat.


Most of us Yelpers are not malicious and don't post to malign anyone. For some of these chefs to suggest that we're not food critics? Ridiculous. Its crowd sourcing which by its inherent nature means you'll get folks who know a lot about food as well as those who don't. Give me a break. As Jamie11^ suggests, get over yourselves. Yelp has guided me to some great restaurants and resources and as long as chef-owners choose to dismiss it as a reliable resource to their consumer base, they do themselves a disservice. 


Yelp is a place for us to express our experience of an establishment. For example, we had a negative experience at a place in Old Town last week. The service was bad, the drinks were wrong, and the speakers were too loud. Yes, some of that is relative, but we used Yelp as a place to express our experience. Within 24 hours, the owner of the bar contacted us, through Yelp, and provided us a complimentary meal and drinks. He wants to make up for It. He wants to make it right. THAT is the way you  handle negative customer feedback. You find the issue, you fix the issue, and you make it right. We will be back, and I am sure the service will be better. 

I am a social media consultant. If you are a business, you MUST be aware of services like Yelp, Google+ Local, and TripAdvisor. People are going there to talk about you regardless. If you are not aware of that, that is on you as a business. Services like this are great, and the more people that use them the more powerful they become.


After reading this article criticizing restaurant reviewers it honestly makes me not want to spend my money on chefs and restaurant owners who do not take constructive feedback. Regardless of whether or not they agree with all reviews there will often be a common theme which they should take to account. You may get a few off the wall comments but after all the customer is the focus of the food and service. Yelpers may not be professional writers but they are spending their money, get over yourself if you can't take a little feedback, how can anyone improve without it?

Man at Leisure
Man at Leisure

There is a huge bias on Yelp as the average person does not post a review. You need to realize that and read the reviews as such.


If you can distinguish the morons from the real foodies then you can't trust Yelp. You have to be able to weed through the crap because most have no clue about food in AZ.


I don't want to end up at bottom of Tempe Town Lake. Honest review could turn out bad.  Scary world right now. I don't use Yelp. 


Yelp is definitely a double-edged sword.  Some reviewers really offer great comments, and if you look a place up and their rating is in the 4-5 star neighborhood, chances are, you're going to really enjoy your experience.

That being said, the site is full of morons and blowhards that tear apart businesses for no good reason.  I am baffled by the things I see people post.  Stupid positive reviews are easy to ignore, but stupid negative reviews can have a concrete impact on a business's bottom line. If I were an owner or a chef, I'd absolutely hate the site.

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