The voluntary listing of precautions, like whether they provide hand sanitizer, is a new feature that restaurants can list on their Yelp page if they choose to.
Some tech companies have actually excelled under our now three-month-old shelter-in-place order, but Yelp is not one of them. When the online review site laid off 1,000 employees in early April, Eater SF reported Yelp restaurant traffic was down 64 percent, and nightlife traffic on the site was down 81 percent. Just prior to the layoffs, Yelp faced the public relations fiasco of launching GoFundMe campaigns on establishments’ behalf without getting consent to do so, a move which won rave reviews like “Fuck all of these people entirely” and “Yelp is fucking scum. Do they honestly have time to fuck with this shit right now?"
In order to pivot back into restaurants’ good graces, and to get back some badly needed traffic, Food and Wine reports that Yelp has introduced a widget to describe restaurants’ COVID-19 precautions. These self-reported listing options include some useful things, like “Hand sanitizer available,” “Contactless payment available,” and “Temperature checks enforced.” Other listing options are just basic things that every business is doing, like “Social distancing enforced,” or “Masks required for customers.”
Yelp said in a Tuesday company blog post that “We’re launching a new COVID-19 section on Yelp business pages, which features important updates, including details on health and safety measures the business has implemented and updates to their service offerings. Businesses can indicate whether they’re offering dine-in service, outdoor seating, in-person visits, as well as virtual services, curbside pickup and delivery options.”
It’s true that many restaurants are not tech-savvy enough to update this information on their web pages, so yes, it could be theoretically helpful in that regard. And while Yelp’s announcement says that “Users can view the new COVID-19 section on Yelp business pages on web today, and by downloading the latest version of the iOS and Android app” — verbiage which does not acknowledge the information being available in the mobile web browser — SFist put this to the test and confirmed this information is very much available on Yelp’s mobile site, with no downloading of the app necessary, as seen below.
It’s only a one-day-old feature, so very few restaurants are listing this information yet. We went to Yelp and generically searched “Restaurants,” and only two of the first ten San Francisco results we saw listed this. (Your results will probably vary because of the algorithm.) Yelp also added some features for QR coding for a spot on the waitlist and “Manual Wait Controls” for restaurants, though these features are unlikely to appeal to anyone beyond Yelp power users and eateries who spend a lot of time maintaining their Yelp presence.