by Dan Gibson
There's nothing wrong with Yelp in theory - it's a good place to test the waters a bit regarding places you've never been - but sometimes the site's loyalists can get out of control, assuming that the world of food service revolves around their assessments. I've heard stories locally of Yelpers threatening restaurant owners that they'll write a nasty review online if they don't get some sort of special treatment, which probably doesn't happen often, but still is a symptom of a userbase that overestimates its influence.
However, it turns out that Yelp might be more of a hivemind than anything else, since only a small percentage of restaurant decisions are made because of online information and only a fraction of those are influenced by review sites:
But at this point, online marketing influences only 6 percent of restaurant choices, the survey found. That’s for all types of online marketing.
On the one hand, that’s a small piece of the overall dining-out pie. On the other hand, that 6 percent translates into 926 million restaurant visits. That’s a lot of restaurant seats filled from online marketing efforts.
Within this relatively small realm of online-marketing influence, what gets diners excited and into the car to go eat out? The top decider: Good old-fashioned deals and special offers, which drove more than one-third of the decisions on where to eat out, NPD found....
What happened with online reviews and recommendations? They turn up a distant fourth, influencing only 14 percent of diners who saw online marketing campaigns, nearly tied with simple information on a restaurant’s location, which helped 13 percent of diners decide where to go.