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Jun 10, 2014 05:33 PM

A restaurant owner told me that Yelp reviews are the most valuable to him

And I guess I wasn't surprised. This is a well-known restauranteur who just opened a new place. He was "working the room" last evening and we got to chatting. I took pix of the food and the place and will post on my regional board. But I asked him where does he derive the most business (web-wise) and he said, hands down, Yelp. Even though CHs disparage the posters, there's power in numbers. And a really good restaurant I'm guessing will still stand out. So I'll post on Yelp also. And you may want to do that also, especially for a place just starting out or that needs a little boost.

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  1. Never used yelp, never will. I like people taking flash pictures dozens of times in dark restaurants more than I like yelp.
    Crowdsourcing info is fine, and has its benefits but I will never support something like yelp.

    25 Replies
    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

      Seriously, why not?

      I've found Tripadvisor to be helpful when out of the country.

      1. re: c oliver

        I could write pages and pages, but I'll just give a simple reason that should suffice. I can get better info from other sources.

        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

          This guy has been in the biz for probably 20 years and is HIGHLY thought of both locally and nationally. I'm not saying you need to get your recs from Yelp but am saying giving recs could raise the bar. Is there some other issue that I'm not aware of?

          1. re: c oliver

            Maybe I'll return with a post about why I'm no fan of yelp later.
            For what it's worth, you are not the typical yelp user, and I mean that in a good way. If the majority of yelp users were like you I wouldn't be beefin with yelp quite so much.

            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

              Well, golly gee, EFGM :) Yeah, clue me in. I've posted on Yelp once, maybe twice.

              1. re: c oliver

                I find that more Yelp users focus more on rating the service and atmosphere over the food, while I think Chowhounders will make that trade off willingly, or know that they are eating at a hole-in-the-wall and have the right expectations.

                As an example, you can read this review where the owner responded to a 1 star review, originally given because the reviewer kept arriving when the place was closed and got frustrated. Yes, it is a place with weird hours, but there are unpredictable places that people put up with in order to get good food. Make sure to read the original review first before the update.

                1. re: tofuflower

                  That was a good review, wasn't it?...up to a point. I agree the star thing is stupid as I've seen fast food, chain places get three of them :)

                  I'll continue with my original thought that if WE post our reviews on Yelp, it will help their site. I love posting on CH but know I have a very select and selective audience.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    "I love posting on CH but know I have a very select and selective audience."

                    Some of which get excited at the prospect of a Golden Corral opening in their neighborhood. I use Yelp, but take the info with a large grain of salt. Very similar to here.

                2. re: c oliver

                  Andrew Zimmern 2012:
                  "Here's something that really pisses me off: Yelp. I was against Yelp for a long time. I don't like the idea of Yelp. The problem for me is that crowd sourcing is very beneficial except when it comes to things like restaurant criticism and restaurant reviews and restaurant recommenders. Just the same way I don't ask my five year old to tell me whether or not I should go see the movie This Is Forty or Sessions or The French Lieutenant's Woman, I don't ask my son which John Updike book is his favorite — because he'll just point at any old random one. And while he might get lucky, and certainly most John Updike books are really good, Yelp essentially gives a tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons to take down restaurants. That's a lot different than Pete Wells taking down Guy Fieri's restaurant.
                  Now, while some people may see that as being a fairly mild thing to talk about, some people may think there's Zimmern, another tempest in a teapot. No. What this is, is it's just further proof that after I softened my position on Yelp a year ago in an editorial in Minneapolis St Paul Magazine where I said look, some of that stuff seems to be fairly well managed. I have now decided after another six eight months have gone by that the number of stories that I hear like this from people who I trust, who I know aren't BSing me (and Doug and Bryan are friends of mine) that Yelp has become dangerously unstable. Because clearly they have people abusing the system, who are using the Yelp name to go out and graymail and blackmail restaurants. Yelp to me is something that just doesn't work. It's official now: Yelp is on my shit list."

                  Here’s a recent article where Chang weighs in on yelp:

                  I’ll also reference our own Mc Slim JB, who wrote a great piece back in April of 2013 (please come back me up homie

                  I just see absolutely no reason to use yelp. Most people are just not qualified to write a restaurant review or give it a ranking out of 5. Then there are the hundreds of cases of yelp engaging in what is essentially extortion. Aggregating restaurant reviews is just pointless. I’d rather have a few extremely trusted sources and just use those.

                  A review written by an anonymous person is literally useless to me, for all I know their favorite restaurant is Olive Garden. Sure they still might give an excellent restaurant the 5 star rating which it deserves, but it’s just chance, and they probably aren’t doing it for the right reasons. Maybe they give a place a “5,” because they never dine at nice restaurants and have no clue what to expect and we’re blown away by standard practices. Or maybe they give it a “1,” because they never dine at nice restaurants and their expectations were through the roof and impossible to achieve. Without knowing what their expectations were, and what biases it may have caused, their reviews are useless.

                  Crowd sourced rankings out of 5 are completely useless to me, a number gives me no useful information in that context. I’d rather read an in depth review that doesn’t even offer a final ranking. Also, with a 5 star ranking system, it is useless unless everyone is on the same page about what each star means. Do you rate a dive bar a 5 because it is the best dive bar, or do you rate it a 3 because….well it’s a dive bar? I don’t know, and neither do the hoards of uninformed morons out there using yelp. Also, I’m sick of scales out of 5 where only 4 and 5 are acceptable. A 5 should be special, rare, there should be very few “5” ratings, and a 4 should be a great restaurant, and a 1 should be a “skip it,” most ratings should hover around 3, with 2 being “acceptable”. Yet I see people rating fast food places 3+, even fast food places. Why the fuck even rate a fast food place to begin with? The whole point of fast food is that it is the same everywhere you go. How can I even trust a review from people who eat a lot of fast food? There are going to be all sorts of biases that come into play.

                  What would be more useful is to have a system that only takes into account what qualified people think. Like aggregating reviews from respected blogs, professional critics, and others who are qualified to really review a restaurant. Yelp fails for the same reason most things of this nature do. There are simply too many stupid people out there with lots of biases. I agree with tofulovers assessment that people think of the food as a secondary experience. There have been tons of studies done (I wish I had links) where customers will rate food highly, and then say they would not return (for superficial reasons), and vice versa. Obviously if a restaurant has great food but everything else is lacking, that would be horrible, but people seem to overemphasize non-food “experiences,” even if they food was impeccable. There are so many other factors besides food that play into a persons perception of a restaurant (one reason why I’m not in the restaurant industry). Without knowing a lot about the reviewer and what they like and don’t like, their review is useless. In fact it is not only useless but it could potentially lead to a bad outcome if heeded. I’d rather have no information than bad information. Also, how much did the reviewer drink during dinner? I don’t know? For all I know they got wasted, and would give a microwaved hotdog a 5/5, or stop for fast food on the way home (I’ve actually seen that in fine restaurant dining restaurant reviews). Then there is the narcissism, these people actually think somebody gives a fuck what they have to say. As if they actually have credibility, hah. I guess yelp would be ok if I found a few reviewers I trust but why look on yelp for that when most folks who are really serious about food despise yelp. There’s just no point to use yelp.

                  Give me blogs, trusted sources and professionals. I don’t want a bunch of crowd sourced drivel. Sure it might still reach the same outcome as professionals in terms of a ranking out of 5, but that’s still useless to me. I need words, not numbers, and they need to be coming from a trusted source.

                  I understand there are yelp users who are qualified (c oliver obviously) in my eyes, but unfortunately they are the exception not the norm. I get that if qualified people wrote reviews it would help achieve better quality information, but I think yelp is too far gone. The masses have taken over and trying to fight that is like swimming upstream in hot lava wearing a snorkel and plastic flippers.

                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                    I really am talking about Chowhounds posting reviews on Yelp and making it a better site. But almost everyone is talking about GETTING advice from Yelp. How could it do any harm to cross-post? Very little work to copy and paste; maybe a little editing if CH references need to be deleted. Why not? It's clear that CHs use it to flesh out those details missing from our site. Just asking.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      No problem with that, don't see any harm that could come of it really other than making yelp bigger, which doesn't effect me personally since I don't use it.

                      It's just not worth my time personally, in principle.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Apparently neither am I. At least not currently, unfortunately.

                    2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                      Just to follow up on the extortion that Eat mentioned:

                      I think that's the main issue for me. I feel it's an unethical business that I don't want to support by contributing my reviews. I had hoped the practices have stopped though given the press, so I'm not sure what the public opinion is on this topic now.

                      However, I did contribute reviews for vendors (non food related) that just started out and had less than 10 reviews if I had a great experience to help them out. But if there are tons of reviews already, I am not inspired to post.

                      There is also groupthink. I saw a handful of recent reviews posting food illness from a ramen joint we've eaten at three times without an issue. But I think people read it, then think any stomach upset is a sign of food poisoning, and then post about it to blow it out of proportion. It's hard to filter out what to believe.

                      1. re: tofuflower

                        "It's hard to filter out what to believe."

                        These days, that's true of almost everything.

                        1. re: tofuflower

                          I completely agree with the CH rule banning discussing of food illnesses. Regardless.

                        2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                          I don't find Yelp reviewers any different than any other reviewer, whether it be movies, music or food, until I understand what their tastes are their review won't mean much. Just a starting point. If they recommend a places/things I don't like I'll know their review is not for me.


              2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                DH and I do a lot of road trips to visit our grown children who live in four different states. We use Trip Advisor and/or Yelp on every trip to find new places to eat along the scenic byways. How else would I find these restaurants? We can't drive in circles through every town hoping to come across some place special.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    No, c oliver, I don't post about my results - CH is the only posting I do, and even then it's not about restaurants, it's in HC or GT. I tried to post a restaurant review once on one of the sites, but by the time I did it, I'd forgotten what I ate and what DH ate, we'd been to so many holes-in-the-wall, mom & pops or hippie joints on our trips.
                    What I do is to read the reviews with a grain of salt. Everyone has different tastes in food, movies, books...I don't even ask DH for recommendations on movies or books! But I read Yelp and Trip Advisor posts to let me see what kind of food the restaurant serves. Plus I read them out loud to DH as we're driving along - they are *always* good for a laugh.

                    Unfortunately, it seems quite a few who leave reviews on those sites have an entitlement chip on their shoulder. It's pretty easy to tell who would be bitching no matter how good the food or the service. All I can say is I'm glad I'm not them, and I'm glad I'm not married to them. Jeez.

                    1. re: kitchengardengal

                      And you're glad you don't frequent the Not About Food board :) At least CH has a pen with a hot wire to control them!

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I do read the NAF board sometimes. I read whole threads aloud to the hubster if it's a good one. We love talking smack about the attitudes and opinions one finds there.

                  2. re: kitchengardengal

                    You might want to take a look at, too, then, especially if you are traveling through small towns and cities (where Yelp and Trip Advisor often has much more content than Chowhound). Roadfood has a topic just for road trips, where you can tell members of the forum where you are leaving for and where you are heading. The focus is on downscale places, with a bias towards American, especially regional, cuisine.

                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      American regional cuisine is exactly what we look for, DF. thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely take a look at

                1. I use Yelp a lot to get peoples opinions of restaurants I'm unfamiliar with. If people feel strongly on way or another about a restaurant it may sway my decision to go there or not. I also write Yelp reviews myself.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: zackly

                    I think I'll write some on occasion. I've looked at some of places I've been to and they're not all bad. At all.

                  2. I don't think most restaurants are aiming for the chowhound market. Yelp also attracts an age group with disposable income and time. The interface also makes it easier to search geographically ie/ when you're at a certain intersection. There's tons of
                    ch reviews I read where I have no sense of where the place is (sometimes for
                    years on end). I'm no big fan of Yelp/ers but I get that it could drive more

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: julesrules

                      As for "target audience," we had foie gras, sweetbreads and scallop/crab/tobiko so it's not the Denny's crowd :) And definitely the ease of locating someplace. It would be nice if every single CH would give the link, if available, in their reviews.

                      We've had some extraordinary meals in the last year or two and I'd really like to share the wealth with more diners.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I'm not talking about the Denny's crowd either... I find many higher-end chowhound favourites in my area close within a few years (so how well were they doing really?) or change substantially (star chef moves on, etc) and drop off the radar. For example, from recent chowhound posts I can barely tell if a 2011 favourite still even exists, if people still like it after the tattoo guy left, etc. I imagine a place that wants profitable longevity rather than hipster 5-minute stardom is looking for regulars who will order basically the same things for years, and probably forgive some quality or creativity lapses over the years. Hounds are merciless.
                        This is all from my board's perspective of course. People get tired of talking about the same places, and I think very few people will do a search unless they already know chowhound *and* the place in question. A thread that has dropped off the main page is hardly advertising.
                        With Yelp, the restaurant entry is already there and always current, and the culture supports everyone weighing in and increasing their yelping presence. Again I don't love it by any means but in some ways, I think chowhound really missed the boat by not evolving from the original forum structure into something more... Yelp-like.
                        Even weblinks to addresses are not nearly as convenient as a premade map of everything near my hotel in a strange city, or what's near my appointment in an unfamiliar part of town. Figuring out where to eat on my last weekend away could have required searching and reading threads from years ago and trying to consolidate all the dribs and drabs of info then research whether it still applied. There was a bit of that, but luckily someone had written a recent overview of the whole town and some helpful posters chimed in when I revived it, which I knew they would because I know them from the board (my home board). But for the average internet user, a top ten list from Tripadvisor has got to be way easier.

                    2. A restaurant owner told me that Yelp reviews are the most valuable to him

                      And this is news, how?

                      Just eyeballing it, and using powers of guesstimation, I'd say that for every 1 Chowhound there's at least 10 Yelpers.

                      And the numbers are even more distorted if the metric is "Public awareness of Yelp versus Chowhound"

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I guess it surprised me that a restaurant that has more 'esoteric' foods (and his other one that we go to does also) gets the majority of their web-generated business from Yelp. But when I consider that I seldom talk to anyone who's ever heard of CH, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          People sue (or threaten to sue) Yelp and/or Yelpers for issues related to reviews and comments.

                          When people start litigating against Chowhound (or and Chowhounds, in particular, based on posts here, then we'll know we've made it big!

                      2. Yelp has been a huge boon to my wife's business. Yelp tries to sell ads to us and I always say "Why would we spend money on something that is working terrifically well for free?"