Yelp or Yikes – How a Restaurant Review App is Getting the Attention of the CDC
If you’re a foodie like me you love to go online to check out the latest and greatest eatery, especially when you are exploring an unfamiliar neighborhood. You may use a host of different apps on your phone like Open Table, Urban Spoon or Yelp to check out reviews, make reservations or get directions. What happens when your excitement about your new discovery turns sour – the kind of experience where the mere thought of it still makes your stomach knot up.
This happened to me back in college when I made the mistake of ordering a chicken sandwich at a fast food drive-through. Of course, fast-food was a staple for college students. It wasn’t refined dining, but at least you didn’t expect to get poisoned. A few hours after gulping down my sandwich, things took a turn for the worse. To add insult to injury, I was staying at my boyfriend’s house with his parents so suffering in silence wasn’t an option. I spent the entire night in shame and on the bathroom floor convinced that my death was imminent. I swore never to eat a chicken sandwich from any fast food restaurant for the rest of my life. If I had the strength, I would have gone back to that place and given them a piece of my mind. I would have told everyone in town, picketed and handed out flyers. Today, all it takes is a few key strokes and a click of a button right on your mobile device. If only I had Yelp back then.
If you are a restaurant owner and you haven’t a clue about social media or the Internet for that matter, now is the time to hop on board or get left in the smoke. Just to give you an idea of how many people voice their opinions about their business experience, take a look at Yelp’s traffic. The company had 132 million monthly visitors and 50 million reviews in 2014. It’s not all peaches and cream for those on the negative end of the stick. It’s a well-known fact that Yelp and businesses have a love-hate relationship. With social media being so prevalent, a bad review or post can not only damage a restaurant’s reputation, but kill it completely. Smart phones can be a business owner’s worst enemy. But now it’s more than bad customer reviews you have to worry about. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken notice and has found a new tool to put in their investigation arsenal.
According to the CDC’s weekly news bulletin, the organization analyzed nearly 300,000 Yelp reviews in a pilot project (Project Protocol) to identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in New York City. Out of those reviews the CDC found 893 reports that required further investigation in which 499 (56 percent) described events similar to foodborne illnesses.
As social media continues to explode, health departments are also taking notice to these reviews by using these sites as a type of surveillance method. Why not? People are more likely to report a bad experience on a website or Twitter than contact the health department directly. The state of Utah jumped on the bandwagon by creating its own unique complaint system, www.igotsick.health.utah.gov. There’s even a YouTube video explaining how it works.
If you own a restaurant, the question to ask yourself is – do people who frequent my establishment have access to Smart Phones and the Internet? Well, of course they do. Everyone is now a roving reporter, documenting, taking notes and pictures and acknowledging the good, the bad and the ugly, all with a massive and attentive audience. A picture of an employee licking your product isn’t something you want to hit social media without your knowledge. Now you can add the health department and the CDC to an ever growing audience. But, there is good news. You can be proactive by protecting your brand through social media monitoring. Whether you do it yourself or hire an outside agency like Firestorm, it’s important to find out what people are saying about your business before it makes the news. Here are some of the great things monitoring can do:
- Identify customer complaints faster than word-of-mouth
- Respond to customer complaints
- Monitor your competition
- Promote all the great things you have to offer and what positive things people are saying about your business
- Spot trends
- Discover who the influencers are
Why put together a plan now? Only resilient businesses survive disasters, even the social media kind. Out of all the disasters you’ve seen or experienced, the worst will be the one that happens to your company.