PROS / The site has some of the most candid and detailed user-generated restaurant reviews found online. Plus, business owners will find a rich suite of resources.
CONS / At first glance the site appears busy and cluttered, so it may take some work to find your way around initially.
VERDICT / An excellent and trustworthy resource for amateur foodies and casual diners alike.
It is impressive to think of the reputation and loyal following Yelp has amassed considering the site launched in just 2004. Completely driven by user-generated reviews, Yelp offers some of the most candid restaurant reviews you’ll find online. Faithful Yelp users – deemed “Yelpers” – have posted more than 10 million reviews on the site since its inception, a large portion of them for restaurants. Yelp is well-deserving of our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award.
Restaurants are rated on Yelp using a simple but highly effective 5-star rating system. A restaurant’s star rating is a cumulative median based on the reviews that have been posted. There is no word or character cap on the written reviews and once posted, other users can bookmark, flag, or link to the review on their own member profile page. A search bar located above the reviews allows you to search for reviews using specific keywords, such as “appetizers,” to see if a user mentioned that specifically in his or her review.
When it comes to restaurant stats (or features), the Yelp website offers some of the most specific and detailed restaurant information of any website we reviewed. For instance, the restaurant stats may include the price range (“$” means cheap eats while “$$$$” indicates a splurge), if it is wheelchair accessible and whether or not take-out is available. The features and stats listed may vary between restaurants, depending on how much information was provided by the user who originally added the listing. While any registered user can update a restaurant’s contact info, the changes are verified by a Yelp moderator before they are published live on the site.
Charts on each review illustrate the rating distribution (how many reviews gave 5 stars, 4 stars, etc.) and ratings trends according to date. Other notable features of Yelp’s restaurant reviews include the ability to instantly upload photos, integrated Google maps and relevant lists (e.g. “People who viewed this also viewed…”).
While anyone can read Yelp’s reviews without registering, you must be a Yelp member to write your own reviews and upload restaurant photos.
Fixed search bars at the top of every page of the site make searching restaurants (or any business, for that matter) easy and fast; just type in what you are searching for and near where, whether it’s an address, neighborhood, city, or zip code. You can even search for something like “cheap lunch” and inexpensive lunch joints in your area will populate the search results. You can further sort those results using specific filters, like “highest rated” or specific food categories. One filter worth noting is distance; you can refine the results based on the restaurant’s distance from your exact location and whether it is within walking, biking or driving distance.
Yelp offers a vast assortment of additional features and information that can enhance a user’s experience on the site. Perhaps the most noteworthy is The Weekly Yelp, an online newsletter that highlights the best of the best in various cities. Currently, the Weekly Yelp has 37 editions that cover a wide range of metro areas such as Minneapolis-St Paul and Orange County, California. While users can access all past newsletters, why not sign up for The Weekly Yelp in your area and get it delivered directly to your mailbox?
Like many of their competitors, the Yelp website offers a blog, mobile apps for a wide range of handheld devices and profiles for business owners. One thing that does set Yelp apart from the competition is the ability business owners have to respond both publicly and privately to reviews. This gives restaurateurs and other business owners the opportunity to build goodwill among the most vocal of Yelpers.
While Yelp has yet to fully expand around the globe, there are a handful of international Yelp editions, including Yelp Canada, Yelp Ireland and Yelp U.K. (links to these international sites are found in the footer of the Yelp site).
Ease of Use
At first glance, the Yelp website seems rather overwhelming. On the contrary, the website is deceptively easy to navigate. Choose an option from the top navigation bar, select a city to browse or use the search bars to find a specific restaurant near you.
If you can’t find what you are looking for, scroll to the bottom of the page; the footer contains links to helpful, information pages such as the FAQs, the about page, and the feedback page, which allows you to send questions or concerns directly to Yelp.
To help you keep track of all the great restaurants you find on Yelp, you can create saved locations and bookmark restaurants and other attractions near that specific area.
Yelp is the ideal online platform to discover great and relatively-unknown local eateries and other businesses. Yelp provides detailed, reliable restaurant reviews straight from the horse’s mouth; who is more trustworthy than a real consumer who that has actually eaten at a particular restaurant? If you aren’t interested in paying for the full Zagat subscription, Yelp offers similar reviews (though perhaps not as many) that won’t cost you a dime!