To most foodies Yelp is a great help. As the Yelp universe expands to millions of Yelpers it is getting harder to find really great restaurant experiences solely based on the reviews and stars. Sorry Yelp, but, the star system and review system suffers from the worst case of “grade inflation”.
So we asked the FoodBoomBloggerWest who is a renowned Yelp reviewer to weigh in on this topic of monumental importance.
The answer to the subject question depends on who you ask, and that’s the point. In its inception, Yelp targeted a specific niche market, to wit: people who had disposable income and dined out frequently. Eventually, the paradigm shifted to include any and all services and/or providers of everything from fast food, marital aids, used baby clothing and ultimately mortuaries.
Although the mainstay of Yelp is still food centric restaurant reviews, the overall enterprise has expanded geometrically. That is the foreseeable consequence of inviting every Joe and Jane to weigh in with a subjective opinion based on nothing more then stunted taste buds.
Yelp is now “Yelpoogle”. (Google, BTW,has repeatedly tried to aquire Yelp.) It has descended into a crowd sourced culinary Hyde Park where everyone’s opinion is wanted, whether it is wanted or not. We are not elitist, but in its current iteration Yelp is populated by both editors of Larousse Gastronomique as well as egg sucking drooling cretins who 5 star anything that stays down for 24 hours.
Yelp, nevertheless, is the “go to” for a quick source to decide if one should try the Felatio Café. (Yes, that actually exists, but not as yet on Open Table). However, one has to cull the malcontents who give earnest restaurants 1 star because they had to ask the Busboy for more butter in pigeon Spanglish without success.
You must carefully read the review and count the spelling errors, and add up all the“amazings” and “awesomes” to describe the basket of cold store bought bread. No, we’re sorry, but amazing and awesome is spending a weekend with Lady Gaga on Peter Island. The concept does not extend to a shovel full of day old Hollandaise Sauce on your Eggs Benny.
Is that really Gaga in there
Yelpers have a free hand and the freedom to let’er rip as they see fit. Does “on Fleek” mean we should avoid the place like an Ebola outbreak or run to get some as soon as Tock swipes my Visa Card. If the Tapas are “Bomb Ass” does that mean at 2:00 AM you will experience an ass bomb?
We don’t want to discourage Yelpers from yelping their guts out. Some rack up thousands of reviews with three line quips about everyone they came in contact with. “Kim’s Cleaners got the Green Pea Chow Yuk out of my girlfriend’s sweater after she hurled in the parking lot. They are bomb ass, amazing and awesome. I’ll be back soon.”
Some render ten reviews a day, thousands of photos of nail salons, tire shops, and tobgue lolling selfies flashing gang signs. Yelp has become a force in the industry and poor reviews, even if ill-founded and having no factual basis can ruin a fledgling business.
Should we, perhaps, set the bar higher? Might we encourage a separate section where “professionals only” may critique each other’s work, art and skill?
We suppose if Thomas Keller really does like Fatburger….We gotta go.
While we don’t want to discourage the hoi polloi from sharing their opinion of shared plates, wouldn’t the readership be better served with the option to read a restaurant review by someone who actually knew something?
Either way, like Democracy, it often doesn’t work well, but it’s better than anything else out there, as Ben Franklin once said.
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb trying to decide what to have for lunch”.
The reality is that given their business model, which is beyond successful, ( Yelp projected 2016 sales to exceed $600million) Yelp will make no attempt to modify what they do and how they do it.
Lucille Ball when asked to change the characters in her iconic show I Love Lucy to freshen the cast and concept, replied, “Gentlemen, you don’t fuck with success.”
Subtract out the restaurant owners, relatives of restaurant owners, friends of restaurant owners, star fucking fickle foodies, and upload an algorhythm that gives you a better, more reliable result. Maybe given that taste is, well, a matter of taste, what we are suggesting is simply impossible.
There is a Yelp Elite Squad. A not so secret society of foodie Freemasons. A dining out Opus Dei. These are ostensibly refined, sophisticated, albeit amateur restaurant reviewers. Maybe the criterion for Yelp Elitism should be the ability to discern the difference between Sumac and Nutmeg on a Quenelle.
Which is which….you decide.
Perhaps a prerequisite of joining the inner sanctum might be a demonstration of cooking chops, or something else, as chops are easy.
As it is unlikely that Yelp will change, it is best to simply accept Yelp as is. A wonderful place to begin, then go and make up your own mind.