Aug. 11, 2020 -- “I’ve been vaccinated for two months. I’ll be there!”

“Such a great call.”

“Discrimination and segregation always worked so well in the past, why not repeat it!”

These are just a few examples of the types of online reactions that restaurants have received after taking the bold move to require vaccines, something that may happen more often now with Yelp’s two new features.

Businesses now have the option to add “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated” features to their Yelp pages for free.

Businesses’ concerns about the Delta variant played a major role in the decision, according to a statement by Noorie Malik, vice president of user operations at Yelp.

Malik also explained how Yelp plans to handle any chaos that arises, especially given the controversial nature of vaccinations, COVID-19 safety measures, and the pandemic in general.

City Winery, a live music venue, restaurant, and urban winery with locations across the country, requires that customers either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry.

Customers with neither have the option to take a $15 rapid test or dine on the outdoor patio.

City Winery was one of the first Atlanta restaurants to have COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Laura A. Albers, vice president of marketing for City Winery, supports Yelp’s new move.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she says. “I think one of the things we can do is make people aware of our policies in advance so that they’re not shocked or surprised when they come to the door.”

Albers also thinks Yelp’s new features could lead to more businesses following suit and enforcing stronger COVID-19 safety policies, like vaccine requirements or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

“I think more restaurants and venues will join forces and do the same, the more they see other places doing it,” she says.

Albers says City Winery has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers. There has been a little pushback, but the new surge in cases may cause wary customers to see the new safety measures in a different light, she says.

“Since another week has gone by and people have seen the uptick in the Delta variant, this policy is not as foreign as it was,” Albers says. “I think people are becoming more accustomed to it.”

Review Bombing

Harmful Yelp reviews have been a big problem over the course of the pandemic, according to Malik.

Yelp reviews must be based on a user’s first-hand experience with the business. But during the pandemic, many users have used the reviews section to air their opinions on a business’s COVID-19 policies, she says.

Yelp places “Unusual Activity Alerts” on pages that get lots of traffic or public attention based on a business’s COVID-19 safety practices.

Since January, over 100 of these alerts have resulted in almost 4,500 reviews being removed, according to Malik.

If users decide to wreak havoc on a business’s Yelp page for its COVID-19 safety measures, also known as “review bombing,” Yelp places an Unusual Activity Alert and examines the page, removing any harmful content.

Users might lose the ability to post on the business’s page temporarily.

Yelp launched special COVID-19 guidelines last March to protect businesses from “reputational harm related to the pandemic,” according to Malik.

This includes review bombing due to a business’s vaccine requirements.

Yelp has removed 8,000 reviews for violating COVID content guidelines in 2021 alone, Malik says.

The company took similar steps when launching the “Black-owned” feature last June, as well as with the “Asian-owned” and “Latinx-owned” features. Yelp prevented or removed almost 400 racist or harmful reviews, according to Malik.

You can report reviews on the app or the Yelp website if you’re logged in.

Business leaders can add the “Proof of vaccination required” and “All staff fully vaccinated” features under the Business Information section of their accounts. “Masks required” and “Staff wears masks” features are also available.

WebMD Health News

Sources

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “List: Atlanta restaurants requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccine or negative test,” “City Winery requiring proof of vaccination or negative test for patrons.”

Yelp Official Blog: “Yelp Helps Businesses Communicate Vaccination Requirements.”

Laura A. Albers, vice president of marketing, City Winery.

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Click to view privacy policy and trust info