A few weekends ago we met up with some good friends in Providence, RI for brunch. Since neither of us lived in Providence, I naturally pulled up my Yelp app and found a couple good spots and then narrowed it down to where we ended up going.
When we got there we sidled up to the bar and my friend, looking around at the restaurant, said, “you always find the best spots!” “I just used Yelp,” I replied. She went on to tell me that whenever she uses Yelp she never finds anything good and told me I needed to tell her my “Yelp secrets.” I laughed it off at the time. But, now as I sit in Nantucket writing this to you I am starting to think she might be on to something. I hadn’t been on Nantucket for more than 45 minutes before I was pulling up Yelp to figure out where to eat, where to shop, and what to do.
So, today I’m going to spill my “Yelp Secrets.” I’ll share how I use Yelp to find the best spots wherever I’m going and share some tips for making the most of the app.
Map it Out
Let’s start with the basics. When it comes to using Yelp somewhere new, I always use the map function.
So for example, I’ll start by searching “restaurants in Nantucket.” Then, I open up the Map View. I hone in on the area of Nantucket I want to look at and then hit “Redo Search in This Area.” The reason I do this is because too often the search is too broad you’re going to miss the good stuff. Or, Yelp will show you 4 ads, 2 chain restaurants, and then maybe 2-3 decent choices. By honing in on a more specific area you can get rid of some of the noise and truly see the best restaurants in that area.
It’s also a good way to get the lay of the land for a new city or town you’re visiting. You can see where the majority of restaurants are and easily locate the most lively parts of downtown.
Pictures Tell All
Before I even bother looking at reviews, the very first thing I do is check out the pictures. It immediately gives you a visual snapshot of the restaurant’s vibe, food, and style in just a few seconds and can help you weed out something bad from something good – or just narrow down the type of place you’re looking for. It’s the best way to get a quick read on a restaurant.
Look at the star ratings with an open mind
Listen, star ratings are awesome. Just like with pretty much everything online you can use them to gauge quality at a quick glance. That being said, there are a few factors you want to put into play when looking at star ratings.
How many reviews are there?: Whether the star rating is really good or really bad, if there are only 2 reviews it’s hard to take them at face value. The restaurant might have gotten two really surly customers or, on the flipside, they had their mom and aunt leave them glowing reviews. It’s hard to take a rating seriously without a good handful of reviews to make it legitimate.
What’s the cause of bad reviews? Often I’ll take a look at the worst reviews and see why they were bad. Just recently Michael and I were looking for a lunch place and initially skipped over a place with 2-1/2 stars because of the bad rating. But, on second look we noticed that every bad review said the same thing “food is amazing but the host was rude,” or “really good food but our host was slow.” Listen, I don’t like bad service as much as the next person but we weren’t in any rush and were planning to just grab a bite at the bar. So, we went for it and had a delicious lunch!
The dates of the reviews: If all the bad reviews are from 3 years ago and the reviews from the last 2 years are great, you likely had a change in owner/chef/management and you can – for the most part – ignore the old reviews. And, of course, vice versa. If all their good reviews were old and the most recent ones are bad, then again they probably had a change that wasn’t for the better and you can steer clear.
Middle of the road reviews: The two, three, and four-star ratings are a good place to browse if you’re trying to get a general idea of people’s thoughts. It weeds out the “I love every food ever” people from the “the temperature was off by 1/10th of a degree” people. You can see the middle of the road reviews and get a more general idea of the good and bad of the place.
Click Off Yelp
Some restaurants just don’t have a strong Yelp presence. If you’re on the fence about a restaurant and there aren’t enough reviews or photos to help you decide, try heading over to their website and finding their social media handles. Some restaurants are much more active on Instagram or Facebook, so you can just get a better idea of what they offer from one of those platforms instead.
Yelp allows you to add filters to your search to get a better result.
Open Now: This filter allows you to change your search to only show places open now if you’re looking for somewhere to eat in real time. This way you can stop clicking places just to realize they don’t open for 2 more hours.
Offering a Deal: Tons of restaurants have Yelp-only specials in order to entice searchers to come to their location. These can honestly save you some decent money. Typically, these deals work like Groupon where you buy the deal through Yelp and then show your server the code when you eat.
Sign up for the Newsletter
The Yelp newsletter is honestly the coolest, and I hate getting too much email (like everyone else in the world).
But, you can sign up for a local Yelp newsletter and it sends you a weekly email with awesome places and events in your area. It also sends you “best of” lists, like “the best guacamole in Boston” or “where to get the best burrata in Connecticut.”
Follow Yelp outside of Yelp
Local areas usually have their own Yelp Instagrams. For example, I live in Connecticut and around here you can follow @YelpHartford. You can find a Yelp city account for pretty much any major city. It’s a great way to see awesome restaurant finds and other up-and-coming businesses and events.Use Yelp to find the best spots wherever you are - here's how Click To Tweet Make the most of Yelp with these tips Click To Tweet
I hope these Yelp tips help you make the most of Yelp to find the best spots no matter where you are!
Are you a Yelper? What are your favorite ways to use it?