Yelp – friend or foe?
Many businesses have battled this question as the user-generated review site has boomed in use and popularity over recent years. Now, new additions to the information available through the site could further influence how people choose where to dine. These changes could even potentially keep people away from booking or dining at your hotel.
The rise and influence of Yelp
In 2004, Yelp creators took the concept of word of mouth to new digital heights. By combining the 21st century love for social media and experience sharing, the company developed a platform for users to share first hand reviews of businesses providing services to consumers.
Previously, consumers would share their experience with a brand via word of mouth or their personal social media platform. Limited to only their friends/followers, it was relevant only for as long as the post lasts atop news feeds. Now, with the help of Yelp, that platform is now limitless and eternally relevant. Anyone who logs on to the site to read the review can share the customer’s experience (good or bad). Site visitors can also see the average rating and weigh that information into their decision making process.
The power of online reviews
A 2016 survey by Bright Local, a search marketing company, surveyed over 1,000 consumers and found that 84 percent of respondents trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. 90 percent will form an opinion after reading fewer than 10 reviews. Half of these respondents require at least a four star rating to choose to do business at an establishment.
Yelp! reports that in 2018 there has been a monthly average of 34 million unique app visitors, 75 million unique mobile site visitors and 69 million desktop site visitors. In total, contributors have written more than 171 million reviews with 32 percent being less than four-star ratings.
These statistics can mean huge fluctuations in revenue determined by the ratings of consumer reviews. As determined by a Harvard Business School paper, a 1-star increase in a business’s Yelp rating can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.
New health department score features in Yelp!
This year, Yelp has rolled out a new feature that adds government health inspection data to a foodservice establishment‘s Yelp page. The creators are excited about the new addition as a relevant step towards transparency in consumer food safety, however some restaurateurs and associations are concerned about this new move.
Many states require that restaurants’ health inspection reports be available to the public. Unfortunately, the scoring systems as well as the process of accessing this information varies widely across the U.S. To collect this information on a mass scale, Yelp has partnered with a third-party company, HDScores. HDScores gathers the data from government websites, allowing Yelp to provide it to consumers in a comprehensive way.
How Yelp! health department scores could affect your hotel
For hotels and resorts that have dining areas or restaurants on site, the new Yelp! feature adds yet another layer of information available to consumers. And this implications of this feature can be instrumental in deciding where to stay and dine.
It’s not just full-service restaurants that face the effects of the new Yelp feature. Limited-service hotels that have small kitchens for breakfasts and light dining are still typically inspected by the health department. That means that these properties will have their health department score posted on Yelp as well.
In a recent consumer survey by Steritech, 25 percent of respondents said they always take note of a restaurant’s health department score, while another 38 percent say they sometimes do.
Could a health department score at your on-property foodservice area or restaurant influence a guest’s choice to stay at your hotel? It’s possible. Guests that may previously have not seen a posted health department score or placard prior to visiting a location now have the ability to see how a location’s on site dining options are performing prior to choosing their hotel. A low health department score may skew a guest’s perception of overall hotel cleanliness, leading them to choose another property.
For hotels that manage their own kitchens, this is further reason to remain vigilant in kitchen management, food safety, cleanliness, sanitation, and pest control.
In cases where on-site restaurants have different management than the hotel, controlling health department scores becomes a bit tougher. That means different decision makers for hiring and staffing, cleaning, and key services such as pest control. All of which can have a significant impact on health department scores.
Concerns about the health department feature on Yelp!
Critics of this new feature are concerned about how Yelp! and its partners will account for the many variations in inspection cycles, types of violations, and updates of official scores.
For instance, if a restaurant scores poorly on their full inspection and only receives follow up inspections after that to determine if the issues were corrected, how long could a restaurant’s low score remain posted on Yelp? How much revenue in sales could be lost before this information is updated?
With the proven influence of Yelp on revenue in the industry, this is a valid concern. However, pressure such as this could be good for competition and the overall health and satisfaction of consumers. A 2005 study found that after commercial food establishments in Los Angeles County were required to post grade cards in their window beginning in 1998, hospital cases of foodborne-disease decreased to a level consistent with the rest of the state. Could Yelp’s health department score feature put additional pressure on restaurants to do the same?
Ally or enemy?
Technology and the rise of millennials as decision makers has led to an economy that demands transparency and social responsibility. Resources such as Yelp provide a platform where consumers can create a vast community centered around experiences and collective scores. These resources provide guidance to others of what to expect when trying a new business. For restaurants, this also includes official health department scores.
Obviously, this new feature works well for restaurants that consistently perform well in health department inspections. However, it does also present valid concerns for those whose inspections may take into account more complex matters that don’t directly affect consumer safety or whose inspection cycle is long and not updated frequently.
What can your hotel do?
The best way to proactively tackle potential issues is to ensure that hotel-managed kitchens and dining options are in adherence with local food safety and cleanliness standards at all times. Adding routine training on health department standards for kitchen and hotel staff is a practice that can help your team stay ahead of curve, identify, and correct issues before they become problems.
For non-hotel managed restaurants, it’s important that the hotel management have a strong working partnership with the restaurant’s management team. Discuss best practices, partner vendors for pest control, and how you can work together to help boost business for both the hotel and the restaurant. If you have a strong partnership, it will be much easier to address any problems that do arise.
Also, encourage the restaurant to monitor their Yelp page and positively engage with reviewers – even for tough reviews. This can show prospective diners and hotel guests that management is actively involved. It may also help quash concerns about cleanliness and food safety.
On site dining options and restaurants are a fantastic way to help bring guests and traffic to your hotel. With the introduction of Yelp’s newest health department feature, hotels can help sway a prospective guest’s opinion before they select a property. With vigilance, hotels can keep their health department scores high and add to the power of online reviews.
Ensure that each health inspection is a positive one by proactively addressing pest control concerns. A 4-5 star Yelp! rating means more revenue for you, and the pest control experts at Rentokil Steritech are here to help. Contact us today.