There was a time in the not-so-distant past when restaurants lived in fear of an army of amateur restaurant critics bellyaching on Yelp about servers who stopped smiling for a quarter of a second or food that was two degrees cooler than the temperature of the sun and thus not fit for human consumption. But those days are finished because nobody cares about Yelp anymore.
According to Eater, Yelp’s latest earnings call was pretty dismal due to the company’s inability to draw advertisers, which has resulted in a 30% stock plunge. A few years ago, restaurants lived and died by their Yelp reviews, but in the Instagram era, when potential diners can see the food for themselves pretty easily, Yelp matters less and less. Google reviews are also becoming more popular that Yelp reviews, and restauranteurs are taking notice:
“I opened a new restaurant a few months ago, and for every five Google reviews we get, we get maybe one Yelp review,” says Danny Teran, co-founder of the NYC-based Watson Hospitality Group. “Three or four years ago, that wasn’t the case.”
But falling advertiser revenue could also be a result of Yelp’s own shady practices coming home to roost. Many business owners say that Yelp has extorted them by creating a pay to play environment in which the company threatened to remove positive reviews if restaurants refused to buy ads or even offered to remove negative reviews for a price. The company has faced multiple lawsuits, though the Federal Trade Commission sided with Yelp and the suits were eventually dismissed.
Another reason for the shift to social media and Google advertisements is the fact that people who work in restaurants simply hate Yelpers:
The human behind @foodbabyny, Mike Chau, says his enthusiasm for Yelp has “definitely waned a bit [over the last few years], but that’s more because of growing awareness that ‘Yelper’ is a dirty word in the restaurant industry and mostly everybody in food thinks that people that write reviews on Yelp are morons.”
These days, restauranteurs are more focused on Instagram and working with influencers, which will certainly provide ample opportunity for its own brand of fresh hell.