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How to Manage Yelp Reviews and Use the Platform to Your Advantage

Yelp is one of the top review sites out there, and with 17% of all reviews falling into the restaurant category, managing reviews on this platform is as critical as managing your business.

Yelp is a social media website that not only allows customers to review their experience at restaurants, but it provides a space for businesses to market pertinent information including location, hours, amenities, and menu. While the website was created with the consumer in mind, Yelp offers tools restaurants can use to communicate with customers and market their restaurants. This includes the ability to add a menu, update business profile information, view visitor activity, and respond to customer reviews.

One of the most popular platforms for finding, rating, and reviewing restaurants, having a favorable score on Yelp can be an effective marketing tool, boosting advertising without spending a penny.

More Stats to Consider:

  • Over 50 million new customers visit Yelp’s website each month.

  • 91% of people read online reviews before making purchasing decisions.

  • 84% of consumers rely on online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

  • 54% of people visit a website after reading positive reviews on Yelp.

With that many people relying on Yelp, it’s easy to see why reviews can be one of the greatest assets—or biggest downfalls–to a local food business.

Even as much of an annoyance negative Yelp reviews might be, a savvy restaurant owner doesn’t always see them as a hindrance. By looking at them as an opportunity to get honest customer feedback and engage with the public, negative reviews can actually have positive results.

In fact, any review – good or bad – is like an open door through which a smart restaurant manager can walk through and come out looking better than ever. If someone visits your restaurant and has a bad experience, not only might they never come back, but to make matters worse, they may share the poor experience on social media or with friends.

A review gives you a chance to address the unsatisfied customer and hopefully regain their business. Using reviews to your advantage is of the utmost importance, but how you respond to reviews can make all the difference in the world.

When it comes to Yelp, having a lot of reviews is critical. This creates the impression that your restaurant is popular and busy, an appealing attribute for potential guests. So, how can you get more reviews? Pay close attention to these tips on what to do and what not to do to get more reviews on Yelp.

8 Ways to Manage Yelp Reviews

1. Don’t Try to Outsmart Yelp with Fake or Paid Reviews

The Yelp algorithm and filters are in place to help spot fake and paid reviews. The platform takes this very seriously, so much so that when in doubt, they will err on the side of caution and filter out reviews that seem suspicious, exaggerated, or fake. And like Google, Yelp actually punishes users who do so.

Note: If the website determines that a business has purchased reviews or has had friends or staff post fake reviews, Yelp will post a Consumer Alert banner on the business’s page for 90 days, notifying the public when a company has been caught attempting to pay for Yelp reviews.

This is a surefire way to lose customer trust and prevent potential customers from patronizing a business that appears to be shady or dishonest.

Also note: Fake reviews and paid endorsements are violations of federal regulations set for by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and can result in fines or serious repercussions.

Yelp Reviews That Raise "Red Flags"

  • No profile image

  • Lack of specific details about the food or dining experience

  • Under 135 characters

  • Repetitive language among reviews

  • Reviews that sound exaggerated, either too negative or entirely positive

  • Reviewer has little or no “Yelp friends”

  • Reviewer’s profile includes no personal information

  • Reviewer posts multiple reviews in one day or on repetitive days at the same time

  • The same reviewer posts a 5-star review for one restaurant and a 1-star review for another

2. Post Reminders, Yelp Signs, and Badges

Instead of coming right out and asking customers to give you a good review on Yelp, let your customers know you’re interested in receiving reviews by posting small signs that encourage guests to share their thoughts. Posting a simple “Let us know how we’re doing!” sign in your dining room and on your website does the job without seeming pushy or intrusive.

Place an official Yelp sticker near your cash register or exit so it’s the last thing guests will see before leaving. Just seeing the Yelp logo could be all it takes to remind your customers to write a review on Yelp when they return home.

Yelp also allows businesses to add a Yelp badge on their website and social media profile pages that links directly to the business’s Yelp review site.

3. Follow up

Customers usually don’t think about leaving a review right after a dining experience, especially a great experience. Statistics show that only 15 in 1,000 customers will write a review about a business. A great way to increase the number of customers who are willing to leave a review is by following up.

This can begin by training your staff to ask your customers if they enjoyed their meal and overall experience before presenting the check. If the customer expresses a positive response, this is your crew’s chance to suggest that they share their feedback online. If the experience was negative, or if you can tell the experience was negative from prior interactions, this is an opportunity to make it right before the customer has a chance to write a poor review.

Train your staff to ask follow-up questions and find a solution. Whether it be offering them a free dessert, bringing out the chef, or giving them a gift certificate for a free meal or a dollar amount that can be used at a future visit.

4. Offer Exclusive Yelp Deals

While offering deals or coupons in exchange for reviews is a big no-no, Yelp Deals can be an effective way to get customers in the door and leave a review. Yelp Deals can be anything from a coupon to a gift certificate.

5. Claim your business

Whether you like it or not, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be reviewed on Yelp, so it’s important that you get in front of it by claiming your own Yelp profile before someone else does. Claiming the business gives you greater control over the page, and allows you to link your online menu, add hours, upload photos, and provide other key information about your business. You can even use the page to add chef bios, promote specials, and extend your marketing efforts. More importantly, a claimed business is able to respond to reviews and reply to messages.

6. Be transparent

Sadly, more people take the time to review something they don’t like than what they do like. It’s human nature. Don’t let it get to you because, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect and it’s inevitable that someone somewhere will find something to complain about. But if you get ahead of it by being completely honest with customers, you just might find empathy instead of criticism.

Maybe your chef was sick the day a guest came to your restaurant for the first time and their meal wasn’t as expected, or you’re operating with a skeleton staff, or you’ve had to remove a special item due to supply chain shortages. Things happen. But if you address the issue upfront by apologizing to customers with signage or on your website, you might be able to avoid negative criticism.

7. Respond quickly

If you do receive a poor review. don’t keep customers waiting. Make sure to respond promptly to show genuine concern. Customers appreciate quick action and according to Yelp, businesses that respond quickly to customers have a 33% higher chance of getting the customer to increase the star rating on their review. A simple acknowledgment of the customer’s difficulty and a sympathetic comment can do wonders to ease your customers’ minds. But no matter how fast you respond, it only works if you respond properly.

Tips for responding to a negative review:

  • Read the entire review before responding, then include details in your response to show you read their review thoroughly.

  • Thank the reviewer for their feedback.

  • Admit your mistakes and offer your sincere apologies.

  • Be polite and respectful.

  • Defend your business without sounding defensive.

  • Offer a solution.

  • Provide manager contact information.

  • Reserve public messages for comments that will benefit all customers.

8. Be respectful

Let cooler heads prevail when responding to a negative review. You can recover from even the most negative review of your restaurant by acknowledging your customer’s concerns, and treating the reviewer with respect.

Customers generally write reviews because they are eager for someone to hear them out, so do your best to be that someone. Yelp allows businesses to respond publicly or privately and it’s up to the responder to decide which is appropriate. But either way, be polite and respectful. Acknowledge their complaint, address their concerns, and offer an apology or even compensation, if applicable.

Yelp is a powerful resource for both customers and business owners. Thanks to the platform’s dedication to keeping reviews authentic and trustworthy, and a community built on providing candid and honest feedback, restaurants can be held accountable for their mistakes, praised for their excellence, and critiqued in a healthy way that helps improve their operations.

Managing Yelp reviews is just like managing your restaurant. Most of the time, customers will have a good experience, but if a problem comes up that results in a poor review, approach the matter professionally, promptly, and respectfully. Staying on top of your Yelp reviews and using the platform to your advantage will help you get free publicity in the community, more reviews, and boost revenue.

By Eileen Strauss



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