Hate us on Yelp!

We live in an increasingly digital world, there’s simply no way around that. It makes sense then, that our choices in entertainment, recreation and, of course, dining, would be influenced by information that we find online. Indeed, when looking for a new place to dine out, everyone from students taking cooking school online to seasoned chefs and culinary amateurs seem to turn to any number of online restaurant review sites. At the forefront of these websites is Yelp!, a platform which allows locals to rate restaurants, businesses and the like through a simple five-star system while also offering the option for reviewers to expand on their ratings with a comments section. While the idea seems quite simple on paper, a Bay Area restaurant recently changed the entire dynamic of the platform by asking their loyal patrons to give them negative reviews on the popular site.

The initial conflict
The owner of Botto Bistro, Davide Cerretini and his partner in business, Michele Massimo, first came to be involved with Yelp! several years ago. The two purchased some ad space on the website- apparently after much prodding and calling from salespeople- which they canceled shortly thereafter for lack of results. Following that, the two owners attempted to have their restaurant removed from the website, aggravated that Yelp! could make money from ad space on their restaurant’s listing page purchased by other competitors. Yelp! refused, according to East Bay Express, stating that it’s against its policy to remove any listings from the site.

This led Cerretini and Massimo to conduct some innovative thinking. The two launched a “Hate us on Yelp!” campaign, in which they offered their customers 25 per cent off of a pizza in exchange for them writing a negative review, according to CNN Money. The reviews came slowly at first, but then the story was picked up by a number of local news outlets and quickly went viral. Anti-Yelp! individuals from across the country began writing negative reviews of Botto Bistro, many of them who, presumably, have never even been there before. In addition to being comical, this actually brought Cerretini and Massimo a great deal of innovative marketing, demonstrating a flaw in the Yelp! platform. While Yelp! has indicated that they will not remove the site despite the fraudulent listings, it may place them on a list indicating that the reviews are predominantly fictitious.

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