Rockefeller, the gastropub that dared take on Yelp. Photo by Kevin Cody
The Rockefeller versus Yelp, Round One
Many restaurateurs fume quietly about vindictive or ignorant reviews on Yelp and other sites, angry about being slammed unfairly but not wanting to provoke controversy. The Rockefeller in Hermosa Beach has gone public with their hate mail, some of which is from people who haven’t eaten there but slammed the place because they don’t like the owners. The management has asked diners who like the place to submit positive reviews to counteract the haters, and have offered a free “entrée, beer, or wine item” to people who do so. I’m not wild about this tactic but understand it – most people are more motivated to write negative reviews than positive ones, so most places get worse press than they deserve. There are also false positives – I know of restaurateurs (and let me make it clear, I am not talking about the owners of The Rockefeller here) who have told their staff to post positive Yelp reviews of the place they work, and negative reviews of their competitors. The game is easily rigged in either direction, and all a casual reader can do is hope that false praise and petty vindictiveness will cancel each other out.
In their defense, Yelp attempts to deal with the problem and weed out the worst offenders, but the sheer volume of posts makes it an impossible job. The company’s business model, which involves injecting irrelevant advertiser listings into searches so that a request for restaurants in Hermosa brings up places in Gardena, doesn’t help matters; both the impartiality and accuracy of listings is impaired. The Rockefeller may not benefit in the short run from their campaign because diehard Yelpers will slam them, and their gifts to positive reviewers may cause doubts about honest assessments, but they have done a service by bringing the subject into the open.
By the way, my capsule review of The Rockefeller, not posted to Yelp: surprisingly good food, well-chosen beer list, but the relatively high prices and LOUD environment means I go there less often than I might. Also, a place by this name ought to have oysters Rockefeller more often than once a week.