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Yelp Matters

I recently had a conversation with the general manager of a restaurant that’s been in business for a long time in the Aiea area. He was talking about his daily operation and the struggles of keeping the business going, especially in light of increased competition nearby from a newly opened large mainland chain that has affected them substantially.

To which I asked him how much impact Yelp reviews have on his restaurant, and he practically jumped off his seat, exclaiming it is VERY INFLUENTIAL. The hardest part being people will read the BAD Yelp reviews and already have a preconceived negative impression before even having a seat at the table. Anything 3 stars or less on Yelp are a real thorn in the side, and 5 stars are GOLDEN to the bottom line.

In my own personal experience, I had my car repaired about a year ago at an auto body shop, and as always, had left an honest Yelp review of my experience with them, which was STELLAR. Excellent quality workmanship on the repair job and excellent customer service. They received 5 stars that was very well deserved. Well, recently I had to return for another repair (long story), and returned to the same body shop because of the great work and service. And the owner remembered me not just by my name, but also making note of the 5 Star review I had left them on Yelp from the first visit, to which he expressed extreme gratitude. He was very, very thankful.

As it turns out, my 5 star Yelp review had FANTASTIC impact on their business, earning many new and repeat customers for my one review alone. He noted military personnel are especially dependent on Yelp, being they’re not from here, so they need all the “insider tips” they can find, and Yelp is certainly THE place to get them. He noted several customers emphasized they trusted my review particularly because of my “Elite” status (4 years), which I think really does matter as well, as readers are assured I’m not just some shady “fly by night” person who might have gotten paid for the good (or bad) review.  Needless to say, upon this return visit, along with the great Yelp review, the body shop gave me the “Red Carpet Treatment”, reserving a loaner for me, getting my car done in just one day, and again with top notch workmanship and customer service. 5 Stars Hana Hou!

I will say I am the type who does my reviews with a “glass half full, not half empty” mentality, taking more into account of the good over the bad. If I go to a restaurant and the food pretty much sucked, but the service was stellar, I’ll still give them at least 3 stars. If the food was stellar, but the service sucked, as long as they weren’t outright RUDE, I’ll still give them a 3.

And that’s the same way I read reviews, not just on Yelp, but Trip Advisor, Amazon or wherever else. I tend to be more swayed by good reviews over bad ones.

Still, without naming names, there’s some establishments that bad reviews just can’t be ignored if it’s a constant trend that barely improves. And I learned those reviews were fairly accurate when I went to dine there myself, based on one element of the dish. Ironically, for the “gist” of the dish I ordered, it was excellent, and I ended up giving that place a high score, adding into account the excellent service. Of course timing really plays a big part as well. Who was the cook or dental hygienist on staff at the time? Did half the staff call in sick that day?

Yelp has also changed Food Blogging. I’m beginning to find doing restaurant reviews on this site a moot point, as it’s not as well networked and organized into aggregate scores as it is on Yelp and Trip Advisor. Before Yelp and social media in general, people depended on bloggers for restaurant reviews; a good example here on Oahu being one of the original, Reid’s Ono Kine Grindz blog. And local bloggers such as myself carried on that torch. However now with the perpetually expanding viral network that is Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, I’d rather take this blog into a more specialized direction, doing more fun “Mixed Plate” foodie stuff and recipe demonstrations, as those seem to be the most popular posts. Subject matter that takes the most advantage of the powerful tools and search engine friendly accessibility a blog has over review and social media sites. Especially when it comes to images.

Yelp has grown substantially not just in the number of reviews, but also as a social media community within itself, developing networks of friends, and hosting many local events, often providing free food and drinks to their Elite members, of which I have yet to attend one.

When Yelp first started, I didn’t think it would grow to what is today, being THE source to find honest local reviews of every type of business, from restaurants, to dentists, to auto repair shops. And I’ve learned not just from using it myself to find the next place to eat or repair my car, but also through talking with business owners, that the reviews on Yelp do matter!

16 thoughts on “Yelp Matters

  • November 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Yes, Yelp does matter, as my wife and myself use it whenever we want to try a new restaurant or establishment. If a restaurant gets consistent 3 stars and lower, we won’t go there, unless the more recent reviews have shown an improvement. We also like it when a business owner responds to negative (and positive) feedback and says they’ll work to fix those negative items that diner’s experienced. We also use Yelp to see which are the more popular dishes and will more than likely try those dishes unless it just doesn’t suit our tastes. When I do reviews, I try to keep the reviews on the positive side. A great majority of my reviews have been 4’s and 5’s, a few 3’s, and even fewer 2’s. The reasons for the two’s have been because of bad/slow service, just so-so food, overcooked food, being out of items on the menu, etc, with most of them being a combination of one of the aforementioned.

    Also, how do you become an Elite reviewer? At least twice, I filled out the Elite reviewer form and never got a response.

    • November 5, 2013 at 5:55 am


      As far as restaurants, I also find Yelp reviews especially helpful for getting tips on what dish(s) to order, and usually what I’m on there for, first and foremost. Like this blog, I too will for the most part only review a business on Yelp that I have at least something good to say.

      Speaking of numbers, have you ever scoured over Yelp reviews in San Francisco? OMG, some of the most popular restaurants have nearly or over 1000 reviews; some of which average 4 stars or higher out of that many reviews. INCREDIBLE! Same for New York (no surprise).

      As for becoming an Elite Yelp member, first of all you have to be handsome like me. lol J/K. Actually, I was hand-picked by Emi Hart, Yelp Honolulu’s community manager way back when Yelp was first growing big here. This, after I had been actively posting reviews as a Yelp newbie. So I’m guessing the more active you are in reviews, the more likely you’ll either be nominated or hand-picked. Even then, you have to fit within their Elite T.O.S.:


      Looking that over again, I’ll have to contact Emi on this part, as my status has changed regarding these conflicts of interest:

      “Unfortunately, you may not join the Elite Squad if you are a business owner, closely affiliated with a business owner (think spouse, general manager, social media manager, partner, etc.), or work for one of our competitors because they present conflicts of interest. Please let us know immediately if you have any of these conflicts.”

      I’ll keep you posted what she says.

      • November 5, 2013 at 10:31 am

        Thanks for the info on the Elite status. Back when I applied, I was doing more reviews but not so much lately. I guess I’ll have to pick up on the reviews a bit.

        As for the SF reviews, I lived in the Bay Area (specifically Sunnyvale and San Jose) from 2003 to 2009 and I used Yelp a bit while living there. I was posting reviews but I can’t quite remember if I was using Yelp to find restaurants to eat at. Speaking of those over 4 stars and 1000 reviews restaurants, I do regret not going to Gary Danko (4.5 stars, over 3500 reviews). My brother got me a gift certificate to the restaurant but I never used it! I gave it back to him before we moved back to Hawaii so he could use it. I wasn’t knowledgeable about Gary Danko and its many top rewards and top ten restaurants in the US designation. Now that I know, all I can say is, ugh!

        I can say that living in the Bay Area did open up my mind to different cuisines like French, Mediterranean, etc, but I digress. Back to posting more Yelp reviews!

        • November 5, 2013 at 10:50 am

          Oh yeah, check out this place in SF. Ike’s Place, a sandwich shop, 4.5 stars and almost 5500 reviews! About a minute walk from my brother’s house so we’ve eaten there. Always a line but defintely yum!


          Man, looking at Yelp, I keep seeing places that I ate at while living there and am getting hungry but feeling sad at the same time, since I can’t eat there unless I fly 2500 miles!

          Tartine Bakery and Cafe – http://www.yelp.com/biz/tartine-bakery-and-cafe-san-francisco
          Eiji – http://www.yelp.com/biz/eiji-san-francisco
          Little Star Pizza – http://www.yelp.com/biz/little-star-pizza-san-francisco-2
          Bi-Rite Creamery – http://www.yelp.com/biz/bi-rite-creamery-san-francisco

          • November 6, 2013 at 5:19 am


            Wow, Ike’s Place sporting over 5000 reviews with a 4.5 star average is AMAZING! When I was in San Fran a couple years ago, we ate at mostly “touristy” places. The most “untouristy” place I tried was Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop in the Nob Hill area.

            It would be safe to say San Fran’ is one of the world’s best cities for avid “foodies”. It’s also not surprising lots of Yelp activity goes on in San Fran’, as that’s where Yelp headquarters are. Same how a large majority of featured restaurants on Food Network are or have been in New York, where they’re based.

            Anyhow, regarding my own Elite status, Emi got back to me promptly (like within 10 minutes), saying “If Yelp finds that there’s a conflict they’ll notify you.”, along with some positive notes that implied not to worry about it. At least I did my part, and so far I haven’t heard from them. ;-)

            I really think Yelp should rewrite their Elite Terms of Membership and take out the part about owning or knowing someone closely who owns a business, and more clearly state that you can’t review competitors of a type of business you own or work for. So say you become a Yelp Elite Member, they’ll require you to fill out a form that includes where you work and what your position is there. That way, say you’re in management at a credit union, you won’t be able to review competing credit unions or banks, however anything else is fair game. If you’re not management, you could still review competing business. So say you’re a server or line cook at any given restaurant, as an Elite, you can still review competing restaurants. And every year when your Elite status is renewed, you have to update the Terms of Membership form. There’s ways they could build that into their automated systems based on credentials so it doesn’t have to be manually monitored by Yelp staff.

  • November 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I have been disappointed in visiting restaurants with good Yelp reviews, which makes me wonder if my taste is that different from the majority of Yelp reviewers or if the Yelp reviewers were not as critical and are too quick to judge a place good when it is not all that.

    I do agree that the most popular dishes are the ones most photographed and posted on the site and that helps when trying out a new place.

    • November 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Everyone has a different palate so what one diner enjoys, another might not. For example many people like cilantro, I don’t care for it at all. Having different chefs can also make a difference and service can also be hit and miss depending on who’s working that night.

  • November 5, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I use Yelp to find good place to eat but sometime it could be over rated. Some business due have off days where service and food not up your standard. But I still like certain busineses due to the special food they served there and no where else.

  • November 5, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Pomai, news that they might shut down the Siracha factory and stores will be short of this special hot sauce.
    I like DIY many things at home and this recipe not bad Siracha Sauce

    1lb. Jalapeno or Fresnos chiles
    stemmed and chopped
    4 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt more to taste
    2 tablespoons brown sugar more to taste
    Puree in blender and pour into saucepan at med heat for 5 mins. Pour into strainer. Strain ingredients till fine and pour into jar. Make 1 /12 cup of DIY Siracha. Store in ref.

    • November 5, 2013 at 3:29 am

      Oh yeah, for extras kick and heat I add half to one scotch bonnet pepper to mixture. It does make a different.

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Sounds. Like some “feathers” are being ruffled in aiea. Hard to compete with mainland sized operations. Hopefully yelp will help!

  • November 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Looks like I can’t reply to your reply (too many replies?). Your suggestion about Yelp having an automated check sounds good but maybe they’re not implementing something like that because they would have no way of knowing whether you’re telling the truth about where you work so they’d have to do a manual check anyway?

    I was lucky that my brother lived in “The City” so he could take us to the non-touristy spots but we also would visit touristy spots as well, like Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. My mom’s uncle also lives in SF (for decades) so he would take us to “local” spots as well, like Liverpool Lil’s – http://www.yelp.com/biz/liverpool-lils-san-francisco, where I had a very delicious Beef Wellington.
    I just realized that was the first gastropub I ever ate at, cool!

    As we used to drive around the various parts of SF, I used to tell my wife, we could eat every single meal at a different restaurant in SF and we would never eat at the same restaurant for the rest of our lives!

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve been an Elite Yelper for the past five years. I live and breathe food and wish I could be in the industry. Whenever we travel, we rely on Yelp to point us in the right direction. We mostly read a good handful and go with what the majority of folks say about the place and what to order. Aside from the perks of being Elite, I’ve gotten some good feedback from places where I’ve given a less than stellar review.

  • November 7, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Hi Pomai,
    I live on the mainland and really enjoy the restaurant reviews. You’re someone whose opinion I trust and your write ups are very interesting, funny, and thorough. If you mention a place on your blog, I make a note of it to try it next time I’m home for a visit or send a link to my family. It would be a different experience if I had to look at all your reviews on Yelp vs. on your website. I would be sad to see them go but I understand where you’re coming from.
    Thanks for all the work you do to keep us informed of the latest and greatest and about island life. I do like seeing the potluck dishes…wish more people on the mainland realized there are so many choices… :-)

    • November 7, 2013 at 5:54 am


      Huge mahalo for the kind compliments. Very much appreciated! A blog such as mine does have a major advantage as far as thoroughness of a review, especially when it comes to images. Yelp is starting to do that now, where they’re embedding the Yelper’s photos into their review of the business, however it’s not linear like in a blog, but at the bottom. Sometimes also, too many reviews on Yelp can be overwhelming, whereas a blog, you’re getting one solid perspective.

      It’s those company potlucks and luncheons that you can only find on blogs such as mine, and couldn’t make it on Yelp, as it’s not business specific. However, they do have their “Talk” forums, where members “wala’au” about any kine stuffs, including that. It’s just talk though. No photos.

      Gotta’ say though, there’s some real characters on Yelp. I’ve read many reviews that had me ROFLMAO! Ch

  • August 23, 2014 at 9:03 am


    I can’t believe it. The good people at Yelp (XOXOXO Emi-Chan!) have chosen one of my reviews once again for Yelp Honolulu’s Review of the Day, a.k.a. “ROTD”. Today’s ROTD is for my review of Kamehameha “Kam” Bakery’s new location at City Square Shopping Center.


    What I don’t get is, my reviews on Yelp are not nearly as thorough as what I do on this blog. And more importantly, I don’t think my reviews are nearly as good as some other “hard core Yelpers” on there (there’s lots!). Yet this is like my 12th Yelp ROTD. Whatevahz. Thanks!


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