The idea behind Yelp is great, right? Our fellow Americans, always intelligent, always insightful, chalk full of culinary wisdom and service experience, band together to make sure we get a short, accurate, objective description of restaurants and other businesses and what they offer.
Often, the reviews look a little bit more like this one, featured on a new blog called F— You Yelper:
Helpful? Not really, right? Why highlight the infuriating worst of Yelp? The blog explains in its manifesto:
“Somewhere along this process we forgot that these local businesses are what make up the concept of a community. A beer at our bar on a Thursday night, a slice of pizza with the softball team, dishing about crazy girlfriends at the barber shop these experiences are a cornerstone of what brings people together. Local businesses are owned by people just like you and they make a living by providing for the community around them.
The problem is some people just don’t really give a shit. They don’t care that somebody owns a business that they pour their heart/soul into, and just how much it costs to run a business.
Instead what they care about is that somebody gave them a funny look while they were waiting in line and that Rebecca Black’s Friday was playing on the radio. One-star.”
We talked to Michelle Mannix, owner of Ted & Honey in Cobble Hill, about the good and bad parts of being judged by Yelp’s teaming masses.
How does Yelp affect your business?
We are truly are a neighborhood cafe, so I feel like the majority of people that frequent Ted & Honey are people that live nearby and know us from word of mouth. However, I do know that a lot of people view our Yelp page (from the business overview I receive telling me how many people viewed the page, checked our telephone number, etc.) so I’m not certain if it’s for a simple address/phone check or to see what the reviews are.
Do you read your Yelp reviews? Are they helpful?
I do not read the reviews. I have someone else read them and give me the high and lowlights. I have read them in the past, and because of the tone of some of the negative ones (thankfully the majority of negative ones are from when we first opened and were still having growing pains!) I choose not to read them any longer. The summary version of the reviews can be helpful, as people often point out things I’m already thinking of or things we need to address, and it’s always nice to hear great feedback about a particular food item or a staff member.
The thing I do not like about Yelp is the tone that many of the reviewers take on. Obviously places and people make mistakes, but to rant and rave with utter contempt is not only not constructive; it’s mean-spirited and ridiculous. In my opinion, those types of reviewers are secretly wishing they had the balls to open their own place but they don’t so it’s easier to play arm chair quarterback and tell everyone how it should be done.
Do you think sites like Yelp are fair to restaurants?
I view them the same way I view Zagat: sometimes helpful, but I do not assume I have the same tastes in food, decor, and service as the average person who is the reviewer in those situations. I don’t assume I have the same likes or dislikes of a professional reviewer, but at least they are objective.
What are your favorite reviews, both good and ridiculous?
One of my favorite positive reviews was that someone said our Redneck sandwich should be in a culinary museum, and that they dream of living in Cobble Hill spending Sundays eating one all the time. My favorite ridiculous one was when someone called one of my favorite all time wonderful employees a coked out “beard-o” (as in wierdo.)
As much much as we at Nona Brooklyn may enjoy hating on the haters, Yelp has real value. Despite the sometimes questionable quality of individual reviews, Yelp is the default starting point for getting a sense of whether or not people like a place. We even use it to talk up our favorite finds. Of course, you probably won’t find us leaving a review like this (also courtesy of F-U Yelper):
“I love junk food, I know is not good for you but its the best. They have the best BBQ sauce ever. I just hate it when they charge you for extra BBQ. The dollar chicken sandwich is really good.” — 1-star review of McDonalds by Evelyn V.
(h/t Eater LA)