Reviews remain as important as ever during COVID-19. Timely consumer reviews that accurately describe how a business is responding to the pandemic can provide important, relevant information for patrons during this time. As an example, for people with pre-existing health conditions or those living or working with someone over the age of 65, getting the most up-to-date information about the way a business is operating is crucial.
As vital as reviews are right now, it’s important to remain empathetic and patient with businesses. Just as you’ve likely experienced vast changes in your day-to-day life over the past few months, so too have business owners. Businesses are adjusting their operations based on the recommendations of health authorities to protect their employees and patrons — for example, by implementing physical distancing and mask requirements, as well as processes for keeping their spaces clean and free of crowding (i.e., capacity reductions).
We have been heartened to see how those of you in the Yelp community have rallied around businesses during this time, and have shown your support in whatever way you can (in fact, reviews mentioning “support” for businesses increased more than five times in late March and April compared to the same time last year). We’re especially inspired by how Yelp Elites have shown love for businesses in their communities — Elite review ratings have increased even further to nearly 4.25 stars on average during this pandemic. For restaurants specifically, we got such great feedback after our last Big Night In — a virtual event that encourages the Yelp community to order takeout or delivery from local restaurants — that we decided to do it again this Saturday. We have also been touched by the words of gratitude this community has shared with their favorite businesses as part of our #LoveLetterstoLocal campaign.
There are many unknowns we’ll face in the coming months, but by being mindful and understanding of each other, we will get through them together. To help, we’ve put together some considerations for you to keep in mind when reviewing and engaging with businesses during these unprecedented times.
- Many restaurants are experiencing more takeout and delivery orders than ever before. As people stopped dining out at restaurants, the ratio of searches on Yelp for dining in versus dining out increased by 300 times in a matter of weeks, according to our data. With that staggering increase in the demand for food delivery, many restaurants have had to rely on third-party delivery apps to manage the large volume of orders. When ordering delivery, keep in mind that the timing and logistics may be out of the restaurant’s control.
- Menus are evolving to meet new demands. Think about the type of food you’re ordering for takeout and delivery. There’s a reason not all restaurants offered delivery pre-COVID-19. A variety of dishes, like fried seafood for example, are going to be different when delivered to your home than they are when brought to your table straight from the kitchen. However, delivery and takeout are now the only options for a lot of business owners, so restaurants have had to pivot and make the best of the current situation. Many restaurants are only offering a reduced menu at the moment. If your favorite item isn’t available, be understanding that the restaurant may not be able to source their usual ingredients or fully stock or staff their kitchen during this crisis.
- Business owners and their employees may be struggling. During this time, business owners and staff are juggling a lot and struggling with things outside of work (sick family members, childcare and homeschooling, among others), just like the rest of us. Additionally, the potential loss in revenue due to COVID-19 means businesses may be operating with reduced staff and reduced hours. Your favorite restaurant may close at 6pm instead of their usual 10pm closing time.
- Consumers may not be getting a typical customer experience. Many businesses are doing everything they can to stay afloat. Retail owners are running around stores to show customers something they may like via Facetime. Salon owners are doing virtual tutorials on hair coloring. Music teachers are teaching their young students on Zoom. And many of them are doing this for the very first time. These situations may not always create the most optimal customer experiences, but know that business owners are working hard to serve their customers under these extenuating circumstances.
- Be understanding, considerate, and support your local businesses! Whether you choose to visit a business (if safe to do so), order takeout or engage virtually, thank you for supporting your local businesses, being extra mindful during this time when so many small businesses are struggling, and for sharing your stellar experiences with others!
If your favorite local business could use some love right now, be sure to show them your support by sharing your experience on Yelp!