Editor’s note: The author is director of business outreach at Yelp Inc. The guest column is part of The Schechter Report and NRN’s content partnership, and the views do not necessarily reflect those of Nation’s Restaurant News.
Thirty years ago, what was the easiest way to get a recommendation for a great local restaurant or other business? Such a recommendation would likely come from a friend or family member.
Today, that word-of-mouth is shifting to the internet, where online review web sites have become increasingly popular.
In the early 1980’s, Tim and Nina Zagat pioneered restaurant reviews for the mass market with their Zagat Survey. By the mid-1990’s, the first consumer review web sites began to emerge. Today, it’s rare to meet someone that isn’t using the internet on a daily basis to seek information about organizations of interest.
As the consumer web becomes increasingly ubiquitous and new platforms such as smart phones emerge to provide helpful information for costumers on the go, it isn’t difficult to find a review for just about any product or service these days.
Recent findings by consumer research groups seem to confirm a seismic shift toward online decision-making. In fact, a study by Pew Research conducted last fall showed that 3 out of 5 Americans use online reviews to guide their spending decisions for products and services.
Founded in 2005, Yelp.com has become the most popular online review web site for local businesses. Yelp is a local search engine that connects customers with listed local businesses by providing a way for consumers to perform broad searches in geographic areas (for example, “deep dish pizza” near “Chicago”).
Over recent years, Yelp has grown to include reviews and ratings by consumers of a variety of local businesses such as restaurants, boutiques and auto repair shops. Yelp has seen rapid growth over the past several years. With over 50 million monthly unique visitors and over 17 million reviews, it’s become a leading tool for consumers searching for great restaurants.
As Yelp continues to become an important channel to attract new diners, it’s important for restaurateurs to become involved. Yelp provides free business accounts for restaurant owners. These free tools allow restaurant operators to respond to review, privately or publicly, upload unlimited photos, create a rich description of their businesses, post special offers, announce events and monitor traffic metrics.
By unlocking these free tools and building out a rich business listing, restaurant owners and operators can capture the attention of potential diners and increase the chances that people perusing reviews will become your newest customers. Equally importantly, the tools Yelp provides allows restaurateurs to join the conversation about their businesses.