Moving forward, Yelp users won't just be asked whether a business has good food or accepts credit cards — the platform is also allowing them to share feedback on whether the staff is wearing masks and enforcing social distancing.
Yelp's head of consumer product, Akhil Kuduvalli Ramesh, suggested that this is the next phase of how the company is trying to help local businesses, after allowing them to highlight virtual services, manage their waitlists in accordance with new regulations and indicate the health and safety measures that they're taking.
Of course, it's one thing to see that a business claims to have strict mask-wearing and social distancing procedures, and another to hear other customers confirm that it's true (or not). So Ramesh said it's less about warning users away from certain businesses and more working "to continue to instill confidence in consumers to continue to connect with and support local businesses."
When users visit a business profile they'll now be asked whether social distancing was enforced and whether the staff wore masks — Ramesh said other health and safety questions could be added in the future (and users can offer slightly more detailed feedback on safety measures by hitting the Edit button in a profile), but those are the ones that users seem to care about most.
Image Credits: Yelp
When Yelp receives enough answers to present meaningful data (the company, understandably, isn't disclosing the exact threshold), it will add a message in the health and safety section of the profile: “Social distancing enforced according to most users” with a green checkmark, or "Social distancing might not be enforced according to most users" with an orange question mark, with similar messages for mask-wearing.
In cases where the responses are mixed, but there's still "significant" feedback indicating that these practices aren't followed, the message will be attributed to "some users" instead.
Ramesh said that Yelp has already been collecting this user feedback, and at launch, only "a couple hundred" of the millions of businesses on Yelp will be marked with an orange label, "which also means that many businesses are doing the right thing."
Image Credits: Yelp
He noted that in cases of multi-location businesses, the health and safety data will be specific to each location. Also, the labels will be based on feedback from the past 28 days — so if a business gets an orange label but starts doing better, their profile should eventually be updated to reflect that.
In addition, Yelp says it's adding new service offerings and safety measures that businesses can include on their profiles, including checking staff for symptoms, disposable or contactless menus, heated outdoor seating and covered outdoor seating.