Yelp Review notes

I was looking at Yelp reviews recently for two businesses that are close to my heart.

The first is Earthbaby – a compostable diaper service that we love. They pick up dirty diapers once a week and convert them to compost. Diapers are a massive source of non biodegradable landfill waste and Earthbaby turns this bad outcome into something incredibly positive. It is a great example of a well run small business dedicated to a wonderful cause. If Earthbaby isn’t keen on global expansion, I’m hopeful Earthbaby’s copycats spring up everywhere.

Earthbaby’s Yelp reviews are a testament to how they run their business. Their customer service is superb and it is no surprise that every one of their 131 reviews are 5 star reviews. Yelp represents Earthbaby well.

On the other hand, I was looking at one for a South Indian restaurant that I love called “Dindigul Thalappakatti” (the name’s a mouthful). When Indian restaurateurs take their brands abroad, they change their spice levels and flavor. It makes sense to tailor food to the average customer’s palate. However, this restaurant doesn’t. They are un-apologetically spicy and flavorful. They also happen to be more expensive than their competition. But, to folks like me, it is worth paying the price to be reminded of home.

That, then, results in an average rating of 3 stars and a rating distribution that looks like this.

I took away two interesting lessons from looking at these reviews.

First, when building products and business, it is important to be conscious about what kind of product/business you’d like to be. Universal popularity is alluring and can work for some products (e.g. Earthbaby). But, for everyone else, you’ll have to start with clarity around who you are looking to serve/please.

Second, don’t just look at the average rating when evaluating restaurants on Yelp. If everyone rates a restaurant 3 stars, stay away. But, if you see a polarized distribution, read the reviews and see if you’re the sort of person who’d give it five stars. If you are that person, such places turn out to be the hidden gems.