VENICE BEACH, Calif. — The popular Yelp reviews website and mobile app (Apple, Android, Windows) turns 10 this month. Would you believe over 60 million restaurants reviews have been posted since its launch?
Life has changed in a big way for consumers since Yelp debuted. Some 138 million visit Yelp each month for tips on which local businesses to eat and shop at, bypassing how they used to do it by checking the Yellow Pages or talking with friends.
We reached out to consumers at a local restaurant here to talk about life with Yelp, how they use it and get the most out of it.
Hillary Money, who recently moved to Los Angeles from Indianapolis, says she could imagine life without Yelp, "but it would be less convenient."
She uses the map feature on Yelp to help identify local places. "I love to look at where I am, and find restaurants around me — restaurants with Wi-Fi, or restaurants with outdoor seating," she says. "It helps me pick where I'm going to eat."
Omar Shepard of Los Angeles searches by dollar signs.
"It tells you how much you might expect to spend," he says. "You're planning a date, and only have X amount to spend, so I better not go there if it has that many dollar signs."
Therese Naniche planned her Venice Beach visit the night before we met, reading up on Yelp and trying to evaluate between the 4-star rated Cafe Buna and 3.5-star rated Cairo Cowboy.
"This had more interesting reviews and I wanted sunshine," she says, of Cowboy, where USA TODAY interviewed Naniche. "The cafe was inside, and (this) has a patio."
Both had good reviews. Naniche knows to discount the really nasty ones.
"I don't believe them all," she says.
Adds her friend, Garret Swayne: "You can tell when the reviewers have a gripe, and have had a really bad day."
Yelp is thought of primarily as a restaurant review site, but in fact, Yelpers devote more words to local shops, accounting for 23% of all reviews on the site, followed by 19% for restaurants and 11% for local services like plumbing and carpentry.
Still, it's the restaurant reviews that have a major impact. A good review can dramatically impact business for the better, while a really bad review can devastate a business.
Naniche tells about a friend who left a stinging review of a local restaurant. "The owner called me, begging me to get her to take it down," she said. "He had to change the name and start all over again. It was that bad for his business."
Such is the power of Yelp.
But, adds Money, "No restaurant is going to have all perfect reviews, so you look for ones with high star count, weigh the good against the bad, and make your own decision. But there's always going to be that one angry person who didn't like the sandwich."
Readers: What's your Yelp experience? Let's chat about it on Twitter, where I am @jeffersongraham.