As is the case with most brands built on technology, Yelp is continually evolving. And 2019 was not a slow year. In the last 12 months, the San Francisco-based company has continued to expand its suite of products designed to connect businesses with users.
One key element of that effort is Waitlist, which added several new features last year. Waitlist, created by the brand’s director of product management, Guang Yang, uses artificial intelligence technology to give customers predictive wait times at restaurants. Customers can join the queue directly through Yelp’s app after seeing the estimated wait time based on current and typical restaurant traffic using AI. These predictions are powering a new feature called “Notify Me,” where customers can be alerted to join the waitlist at the correct time.
Want to eat at 8 p.m. and the average wait time for 8 p.m. is an hour? The app will notify you to join the waitlist at 7 p.m. This algorithm was developed by Yang and his team and, though it’s not perfect, the predictive system is “pretty sophisticated,” Yang said to TechCrunch, because the technology takes kitchen closures and longer waitlists into account.
Also new to the arsenal of Yelp tools: Yelp Connect, introduced last fall, a $199 a month platform for businesses to control their image by providing customers real-time updates on the restaurant. This includes weekly e-mails and an RSS-style feed delivered to each person’s portal on the app that’s been customized to their preferences. Think of as social media for restaurants only.
In addition, 2019 saw Yelp add lifestyle filters to allow dietary customizations when looking for restaurants and sustainable ratings via the website’s Green Practices Initiative. The change means that, for the first time, two users opening Yelp from the same location might see different suggestions tailored to their preferences.
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