Yelp and Health

If you are running a restaurant business in NYC, you always fear two things: Health Department and Yelp reviews. 

Health Department comes to a restaurant once a year and checks everything – if there are no hygiene violations (proper fridge temperatures, no standing water, no rats, no cockroaches, the right expiration dates on products… and many, many other aspects). To start the inspection, you have to show your Health Department ID first – which proves that you finished the health department course; at least one person during the shift has to have it. If you get through inspection without any violations (that alone is a reason for a big celebration!), the next inspection will take place exactly a year ahead. A month before the inspection everyone is stressed out and is double-checking everything. When you pass, your problems are gone… at least technically speaking. Because the truth is that you’re always afraid of Health Department – all it takes is one pissed off customer who reports you to them (saying that you have a rat on the premises or a broken toilet) and they come back again to check it out.

How do you know that a restaurant just went through an inspection…? When you take a closer look at the restaurant’s door or windows, you would see a paper sheet with a big letter on it. If it is “A” – walk in, if it’s “B” or “C” – think twice before walking in. “A” means that the restaurant had no violations, “B” means that a restaurant had some violations and they didn’t take care of them in the next 3 months when the Health Department came back to check up again, so the grade went down for a full year. “C” means that Health Department came back to check if the restaurant fixed the violations and the restaurant not only didn’t fix it but had new ones (the check is more scrupulous this time).  I would walk into a “B” grade coffee shop, but I wouldn’t walk into a “B” restaurant. 

Yelp reviews are another matter. Customers in NY can express whatever they want to – and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. And they usually use Yelp, because – of course – they need a big platform. I don’t read Yelp reviews, especially when they’re long. If I see a message few paragraphs long, I know that the restaurant wasn’t quite the problem. If you have time to sit down and write something like that, just because you waited 15 minutes extra or your burger wasn’t cooked properly – I think that that this particular restaurant is the least of your problems.  I would have to be treated really, really badly to go on Yelp and complain. If I didn’t like service or food, I would simply not come back there anymore, I wouldn’t go online to rant about it. This is how you want to spend your energy? If something really bad happens to me at the restaurant, I would rather go on their social media than on Yelp. But the truth is that Yelp reviews can ruin the business, too. And New Yorkers know about it – and can be assholes, blackmailing the staff or the manager of the restaurant saying – “If I don’t get it, I will Yelp about it”. Yes, we can be bitches sometimes, because – as I said a few times already – we’re impatient and we think that we deserve it. And that’s why running a restaurant is a stressful job.