The placement of reviews isn’t Taffer’s only concern—it’s also the timing of them. The industry veteran noticed that Resort World Las Vegas, which debuted June 24, had bad reviews on Yelp before even opening. He claims the same issue happened when his new restaurant concept, Taffer’s Tavern, debuted in Alpharetta, Georgia, in the fall of 2020. Taffer also doesn’t appreciate how Yelp’s scores are consistently lower than other review sites.
Because of those alleged problems, Taffer prefers Google Reviews, he says, which he believes shows an “honest portrayal of how a restaurant is performing.”
“If you look at Google reviews, and I'm not being paid by either of these companies, you'll notice there’s many, many more Google reviews than there are Yelp reviews in almost every case. So if Google reviews are a far bigger sampling than Yelp—and they are—and if Google reviews are a point often considerably more higher than Yelp reviews with a smaller sampling, what does that tell you? If all the reviews on Yelp were a point higher, Yelp’s revenues would go down.”
On the subject of businesses receiving reviews before opening, Yelp said some of those reviews may exist because of a company conducting pop-ups or soft launches prior to a grand opening. If a business listed on Yelp has not opened, it is company policy to add “Opening Soon” to their name and to disallow business hours on their Yelp page. In response to Taffer’s example of Resorts World Las Vegas, Yelp’s records show that its content moderation team removed eight reviews written between December 30, 2020, and June 22 for violating content guidelines for reviews. Seven of these were removed for not describing a first-hand consumer experience and one was taken off because it represented a conflict of interest.
With Taffer’s argument about Yelp having lower reviews than competing sites, Yelp pointed toward a study released by Federal Trade Commission economist Devesh Raval that analyzed how review ratings compared across Yelp, Google, Facebook, HomeAdvisor, and the Better Business Bureau. The report found that while other platforms showcase rating inflation, Yelp’s ratings remain uniformly distributed across the five-star spectrum. The study also said Yelp’s review standards aligned with BBB ratings and consumer complaints, meaning Yelp’s reviews and ratings are apparently good predictors of consumers’ experiences.