The hospitality industry has become one of the most dynamic and competitive industries in the UK, especially in London. Restaurateurs have to look beyond traditional sales and marketing tactics when planning their communication strategies not just to attract and retain customers, but to also appeal towards their most powerful critics – the everyday reviewer, blogger, tweeter.
A series of Special Breakfasts designed exclusively for BHA members saw Yelp Manager of Local Business Outreach, Rosie Akenhead, meet some of the restaurant community earlier this year. The BHA held a special workshop on ‘how restaurants can gain value from user-generated review websites.’ The event, held at the Gherkin in London, also set in place a series of ideas and tools on how restaurateurs can improve upon existing practices to build crucial relationships with customers.
Our Legal and Policy Director at the BHA has interviewed Rosie about reviews and how the members can appeal to the daily critics.
Jakie: Rosie, just to set the background can we get some stats about Yelp?
Rosie: Yelp’s core purpose is to connect people with great local businesses.
- Yelp was founded in 2004 to help people find great local businesses like restaurants, bars, hair stylists and mechanics.
- Yelp had a monthly average of approximately 138 million monthly unique visitors in Q2 2014.
- Yelpers have written over 61 million local reviews.
- Every business owner (or manager) can claim their business page to post photos and message their customers.
- Yelp makes money by selling ads to local businesses - you'll see these clearly labeled "Yelp Ads" around the site.
- Business owners, whether or not they advertise on Yelp, can never change or re-order their reviews.
- Yelp uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews on Yelp. To identify the reviews that we are comfortable recommending, the software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and user activity. The process has nothing to do with whether a business advertises on Yelp or not. Learn more here.
- You can access Yelp via iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and more - see the full list of mobile apps here.
Jackie: How can BHA restaurateurs benefit from customer reviews on Yelp?
Rosie: Sometimes, when reviews of a restaurant are published online it can seem a little scary to the business owner. However, customer reviews online are absolutely no different to in-person interactions. If someone was talking to you at your restaurant, telling you they’ve had a great (or not so great) time, would you ignore it? No. Reviews on the internet should be treated the same way.
In fact, reviews on Yelp present a huge opportunity for owners and managers to gain credible feedback about their businesses. Regardless of whether feedback is positive or negative, business owners can (and should) respond to all reviews on Yelp. They can do this privately or publicly, so long as they have claimed their business page on Yelp at biz.yelp.co.uk.
To help aid BHA members, I'm currently working on a set of guidelines for the association. This will help answer most queries regarding customer reviews on Yelp and how best to handle certain scenarios.
Jackie: Do you have a system in place for reporting suspicious reviews?
Rosie: All questionable content is evaluated by the moderators at Yelp HQ- they review flagged content the user has written and compare it to Yelp's Content Guidelines and Terms of Service. To report any questionable content, please follow the steps below:
1. Locate the review on Yelp.
2. Click on the "Flag" icon that appears below the review.
3. Identify the issue with the review from the dropdown menu.
4. Provide commentary as to why you'd like the review evaluated.
The screenshot below shows this latter steps of this process.
Jackie: Do you think there is any validity in limiting the duration of time that reviews are available for?
Rosie: We provide consumers with a number of different options so they can sort their reviews by date or rating, which often provides them with insights into whether a business has improved over time. We also have very a wide range of volumes and frequencies of reviews across different categories. For example, we probably go out to eat at restaurants most weeks, but we only move house every 4-5 years. That means those older reviews for moving companies are still hugely important.
Jackie: What’s the feasibility of providing a function so that restaurants receive a draft of the review prior to it going live on the site and therefore opening up the lines of communication between the restaurant and customer?
Rosie: We have just implemented a facility called "message the business" where consumers can write a message directly to a business owner (so long as they have claimed their free business owner account on Yelp). We believe this will help connect the dots between consumers and businesses and allow an easier communication process. This feature is currently available to all businesses that have claimed their page.
Jackie : Can you explain what guidance reviewers get regarding what star rating to give when they write a review?
Rosie: We do have a process in place to help users understand the star rating. As you scroll over the stars when you are writing a review, it gives guidelines to match sentiment. All reviewers can also check out our review guidelines. Here’s an example: