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Oct 2, 2009 02:03 PM

Yelp vs Chowhound Re-Examined

I pretty much ignored yelp for the first year or two I was aware of it, but in the past year have become a frequent user. Each site has its place.

Yelp is vastly more useful than chowhound in terms of the following features:
- easily pinpoint locations (down to the building number or zip code) and search for restaurants/shops nearby
- search by map view
- addresses, map views, phone numbers displayed for all restaurants and food shops
- website addresses, photos, operating hours also available for many places
- MUCH easier/faster to locate opinions on specific restaurants/shops, as well as restaurants/shops of a particular category
- more user-friendly bookmark and annotation features
- very easy to send private messages to other users, which the users can be notified of having received via their regular email account, making it fairly easy to quickly communicate on topics that may be tangential (and thus discouraged at chowhound) to a specific review
- webpages load faster about 95% of the time
- the advertising *seems* less intrusive
- easier to trace other reviewers' reviews (when logged under a given account) for a specific place or a category of places (all of my reviews on wine shops in or near Dallas, for instance)
- webpage layouts just more attractive to me personally
- much more loosely moderated (comments about vermin don't immediately disappear from reviews, for instance)
- not just limited to food (the advantage is that you can easily find other shopping or attractions near to a food-related location you are researching; the disadvantage, obviously, is that people who are not particularly discerning when it comes to what they eat are more likely to submit reviews about food-related places than tends to occur at chowhound)

Chowhound is better for
- finding reviews (at least on some boards) that tend to be written by people who care very passionately about the finer aspects of food
- finding detailed discussions (not just isolated comments) about specific items on the menu at restaurants, as well as interesting discussions on many other food-culture topics
- getting tips on where to find hard-to-find food items
- searching for anything food-related outside the US and UK
- reading/viewing all of the other food-related content at chowhound (although I don't really use it)

Both sites are superior to the anonymous-comments websites because yelp and chowhound both make it easy to learn the food-related preferences of other specific users. Once you learn which users tend to share your tastes, you have a good idea of whose reviews you should pay the most attention to (or avoid, in the case of reviewers who tend to have very different tastes from your own).

The one feature sorely missing from both yelp and chowhound is a current-menu display for all the restaurants. And because of that deficiency, I regret that I still find myself scouring menupages pretty frequently.

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  1. yelp used to hve links to the menupages site, but that went away last year for some reason

    1. I would be very wary of trusting Yelp reviews. I have first hand experience that they can and will delete negative reviews. I once (negatively) reviewed a place on Yelp and strictly followed all the review guidelines (no cursing, etc). I later found that my review had been deleted. When I contacted a Yelp administrator, I was told that they sometimes delete reviews that they think may be spam. When I requested they reinstate my review (as clearly I am a individual and not a spammer) they refused with out explaination.

      Because of this I NEVER consider Yelp reviews. Chowhound, however, has been most useful and many people have generously provided me with great info.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Henrietta Stackpole

        The spam-filtering process used at yelp is far from perfect, and the situation you describe is indeed one of the drawbacks of using yelp.
        However, it is my understanding that the likelihood of a review being falsely identified as spam and removed from yelp is markedly reduced if the writer has contributed a certain number of reviews. (How many reviews is required to pass the threshold, I don't know. I can tell you I have written many negative reviews, in some cases in complete disagreement with what most other reviewers have written, and not had any of my reviews removed, so far anyway.) Note that extremely-positive reviews can be caught up by their spam-filtering process as well.

        Which is yet another reason that you can get the most out of yelp (and out of chowhound) by finding other users who seem to share your tastes. It tends to be very difficult to do that based on a just a single or handful of reviews.

        1. re: Henrietta Stackpole

          I've written many reviews on Yelp as well, some negative ones and none of mine have ever been removed. I know they delete reviews they think are shill reviews or if you write a review that disaparages someone else's review. I once flagged a review that didn't review the restaurant, but rather slammed me and my review, and that review was removed.

          I think in the beginning Chowhound said they ahd the right to remove reviews as well.

          I've met alot of people who live in my area through Yelp, and we have gettogethers, which is something that is harder to do with chowhound.

          1. re: Henrietta Stackpole

            Back in the day, Chowhound used to delete negative reviews as well. Based on CH, I once went to a restaurant in suburban Virginia that was positively awful (cooked my medium-rare steak well done, awful). I wrote up a detailed description of my experience on the extremely positive thread about the restaurant, and found it deleted a few days later. But these days, Chowhound seems to keep up negative reviews, even ones that disagree with majority viewpoints (see any of my posts about George's in La Jolla).

            1. re: Indirect Heat

              Chowhound never deleted reviews because they were simply negative. Those posters forget about the types of things they put in their reviews that ARE against site rules such as reports of finding things in their food that should not be there (hairs, bugs, etc.) or saying something about how the food made them sick. And if that happened the moderators, then as now, email you about why your post was taken down and suggest you repost without the offending portion of the review.

              People also forget when they should not be commenting on certain restaurants. Either because they have a conflicting interest either for or against that restaurant. That's another common reason for taking posts down that hounds tend to forget about.

              1. re: Indirect Heat

                Not per se, they didn't. I've been on the boards since '01 and negative reviews have been as common as positive ones. Either can be deleted.

              2. re: Henrietta Stackpole

                reviews generally get deleted as spam because if follows an algorithm to detect spam just as your spam filter does in your mail program. and just like your mail program it sometimes thinks something is spam that is not. They prefer an aggressive program that sometimes deletes real reviews over a less aggressive one that might a few slide by -

              3. I do not trust Yelp. I've found that at least in the cities where I've lived or traveled (and am familiar with the restaurants), Chowhounds know what they're talking about. I've been disappointed on multiple occasions from trusting Yelp reviews- this hasn't been the case w/ Chowhound- even with reviewers I don't know. As far as the convenience of maps/location, etc. - I find the reviews on GoogleMaps to be better than Yelp!

                2 Replies
                1. re: QSheba

                  My hope, in opening this discussion on chowhound, was to encourage the chowhound folks to work toward improving the site.

                  With the exception of menus, practically everything you need to know about a restaurant can be found in a single place at yelp. But if you use chowhound, more often than not, you not only will find yourself wading through multiple threads to get information about a place, but you will also need several other aids to find a restaurant -- you will need to find the address, possibly find the phone number, look up the location on a map, etc. There is a function for keying in restaurant details like location and phone number, but it is somewhat cumbersome, and it is totally optional, so most chowhound users seem to ignore it. The result is that someone recommends a wonderful place by the name they remember and a general location, but then you as a reader who would like to try the place have to jump through a few hoops to find out exactly where the place is.

                  As for google maps, my experience has been different than yours. If you already know the address (see my comment in the previous paragraph), google maps is extremely useful. If you only know the name and the general location, depending on the restaurant, google maps may provide you with an erroneous location (or worse, several erroneous locations), presumably uploaded by other users rather than by the owners.

                  1. re: racer x

                    I use Yelp occasionally. It is sometimes a good place to start if the restaurant doesn't come up on Chowhound. If it doesn't, chances are it is a lesser, cheaper, poorer restaurant.
                    It is very seldom that I find restaurants misplaced on Google Maps. I use Google Maps to find and place a lot of restaurants on my user-content maps (as Scargo).
                    One thing I noted, and mentioned earlier today, was that of nine posts about X restaurant, all those that gave it four or five stars had no more than fifty posts or much fewer. Those that gave it three stars or less had many more posts to their credit; sometimes into the hundreds. These people's comments seemed to better mirror the posts I found on Chowhound or elsewhere.

                2. I use Google, Yelp, Chowhound, and Menupages all the time.

                  The only thing I find Yelp best at is finding information on new and obscure restaurants.

                  The only thing Menupages is best at is searching menus for particular items, though sometimes when it comes up blank I find what I'm looking for on Yelp. And Menupages is useless outside of the few cities it covers.

                  1. The original comment has been removed