Ok, the title of this blog post is a little misleading because I actually *do* like Yelp (mostly). It’s a cool idea with awesome site design and tools (unlike the unslightly Citysearch), but has some sketchy ability to reign in its own users.
We’ll go straight to Exhibit A. This is from an Elite (cream of the crop) Yelp member from the Seattle area, who has created a list of top restaurants in the Woodinville area (close to our neck of the woods). The top 10 restaurants this person lists are:
1. Denice’s Place
2. Mongolian Grill
3. Garlic Jim’s
4. Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill
5. Ezell’s Famous Chicken
7. Maltby Espresso
9. Theno’s Dairy
10. Crystal Creek Cafe
If you’ve been in Woodinville, you know there’s also Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (our full review is coming in with our next update), yet it’s mysteriously gone from the top 10 list. However, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see it listed at #25, one spot below Old Country Buffet and one spot above KFC. That is pure absurdity. Here’s what the review actually said:
“We tried to eat at this cafe and we were told that there was a 45-60 minute wait. So…. if you ever manage to get there when the wait’s not too long, maybe the food will be good.”
The reviewer left a one star (the lowest rating), based solely on the fact they had to wait an hour to find a seat at a fine dining restaurant. This raises the hair on my neck, let alone the manager of the restaurant who is likely fuming at the mouth at the absurdity of this review.
As food critics, we understand quite well that different people have varied taste in foods (apples to oranges, what makes you happy makes you happy, etc). That said, to be a discerning diner of fine gourmet, it’s mind blowing to possibly list McDonald’s as anywhere above Purple (or for that matter, half the list, even though it’s filled with fast food already). Even when comparing similarly styled cuisine, such as McDonalds vs Red Robin, the contest is a scathing no-brainer.
This is the problem with sites like Yelp, because they provide the sandbox for which to play, but they have no way of realistically monitoring the quality of the users. Sure, they can throw out the trouble makers and spammers, but otherwise are handcuffed against taking action against users who obviously have no business reviewing food. Yelp is close to a purist’s democracy of food, which means anybody and everybody can have their time in the sun. To this extent, we have seen a small but vocal contingent of reviewers that use sites like Yelp for their own personal soapbox and often, raging bullhorn. Yelp will tell you that bad apples come with the territory, but tell that to the restaurant owners who get slammed by these self-absorbed crusaders. (In case you are curious, Coffee.net has our own system of checks and balances for these type of things currently in testing.)
Again, this isn’t meant to hark on Yelp (that was a bad pun), but to point that it’s broken in a way that is fixable. Both Yelp and Citysearch fail to understand the foodie by having no way to separate the various restaurant factors like service and food apart. Not all diners believe that eating out is a form of mind and body experience to satiate the soul. In fact, I would say true foodies will gladly make a matyr out of their ego in the quest for good eats. This is why we’ve implemented restaurants ratings based on your priorities: high service and ambiance for a good date; high food and value for down and dirty grubbing. If Yelp used this system, it would break their huge “star” brand, but it would also separate the service nit-picks from the would-be food connoisseurs.
Of course, it’s in our own interest as a competitor to Yelp, to see them go burning down in flames, but we’re not like that and know it’s not going to happen. Competition makes products better and as long as Yelp is around, we’ll have motivation to improve Coffee.net for all our wonderful Seattlelites.