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!