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January 2013

January 17, 2013

Now on Yelp: Restaurant Inspection Scores

Yelp's mission is to connect people with great local businesses; along the way, we hope to enrich lives of consumers and small business owners. In pursuit of this mission, we want to provide the most helpful information possible about local businesses. While ratings and reviews are incredibly powerful ways to guide spending decisions, we're always looking for new ways to supplement the information to provide a better experience for consumers.

Today, we're excited to join San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in announcing that restaurant hygiene scores from the City of San Francisco will be imported onto Yelp business pages. This is huge news in itself, but perhaps the bigger news is what we’ve created to enable this new business attribute: a new open data standard -- the “Local Inspector Value-entry Specification” or, simply, LIVES.

The LIVES standard was co-developed by Yelp and the technology departments of the cities of San Francisco and New York. The standard was created with the guidance and encouragement of the White House.

You can already see some live examples on the site today: here and here.


LIVES enables local municipalities to display their hygiene inspection data as a business attribute on Yelp. Consumers in SF and NYC will be the first to benefit from this program as it rolls out in the weeks ahead. San Francisco users will be able to click through and view the inspection history of a local establishment.

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Public/private partnerships like this don't necessarily provide a direct contribution to Yelp’s bottom line, but evidence suggests the LIVES open data standard will have a positive impact on society.

According to a study of the Los Angeles restaurant industry, when consumers have better exposure to restaurant hygiene scores, the number of hospitalizations due to foodborne illness drops. The LA study also demonstrated that when restaurant scores are posted conspicuously, best practices improve across the industry.

We hope other cities will join San Francisco in fully embracing this new open data standard. If you work for a city hall and are interested in learning more about implementation, visit http://yelp.com/healthscores.

UPDATE: We're very pleased to share that Code for America is supporting this initiative with a dedicated push to their community members. Go to foodinspectiondata.org to get involved and pledge to implement the LIVES standard in your municipality.

January 14, 2013

Keep Calm and Have a Nice Yelp

(Video not working? Click here.)

A recent sketch on the show Portlandia highlighted a humorous series of events that began when bookstore owners Toni and Candace discovered they have a dreaded one-star review on Yelp. After scouring the user profile of the offending reviewer for clues, the two business owners stake out a local sports bar hoping to confront the unhappy customer face to face. Beneath the witty humor, however, the clip highlights a perfect example of what not to do if you happen to get a negative review.

While 80% of the reviews on Yelp are three stars or higher, every business out there will likely receive negative feedback at some point because it’s impossible to please 100% of the people you deal with 100% of the time. That being said, don’t lose your cool when it happens to you. Instead, take some time to think about what customer service policies you have in place in the offline world and apply that same logic when dealing with online reviewers. To be specific, consider implementing constructive feedback when appropriate and get in the habit of addressing the concerns of critical reviewers (diplomatically of course) using the private message or public comment feature at biz.yelp.com.

How do we know this approach is effective for business owners? We went straight to the source. Over the past year we held numerous town hall meetings with business owners and members of the Yelp Elite squad (some of our most prolific reviewers) to learn what resonates with consumers. Yelp users consistently mentioned that they appreciate getting a response from business owners after leaving reviews, whether positive or negative. We also continue to see examples of how a well thought out response to a negative review can result in a return visit from the customer, as well as a bump in star rating.

So the next time you get a less than stellar review, remember that you have a suite of tools at your fingertips to address your critics so you won't have to go to the extreme of stalking your reviewers like our friends in Portlandia.