by Martha Bayne
The San Francisco Chronicle weighed in Sunday on the recent explosion of food blogs and message boards and the (glorious/devastating) impact they can have on a new restaurant. Touches on some familiar ground (free meals, yea or nay?), but what was most interesting (to me) was the discussion of Yelp--in particular this tidbit, about the site's response to an aggrieved restaurateur:
"Kridech said he begged Yelp staffers to have a complimentary meal at Senses, hoping that would turn the tide for his restaurant. Instead, he says, Yelp offered to sell him an ad in which a positive posting -- including a line from the restaurant thanking the reviewer for the kind words and noting that the business is a sponsor of the site -- is placed above all other critiques. But Kridech thought it was extortion.
"Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp co-founder and CEO, said in an e-mail, 'We think it's a fun way for businesses to offer kudos to a customer that has said wonderful things on their behalf.' He added that businesses can also use the free messaging feature to defend their reputation."
I confess I'd never looked at Yelp until about two weeks ago, when a friend in the food biz directed me to a particularly contentious thread that had gotten her goat. Even by the slippery standards of online dialogue, it's pretty scrappy. Still, it's a brave new world out there and I'm inclined to agree with this LTH'er:
"With a traditional critic, you basically get one shot. With the online community, you have tens or hundreds visiting and writing. If you serve one or two of them a bad meal, their criticisms will be lost amongst other positive reviews. As such, isn't the online community less dangerous, since the larger sample is more likely to give a true picture of the restaurant?"