Restaurants can now be marked as following—or not following—social distancing and mask policies.

By Mike Pomranz
January 12, 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what customers look for in a restaurant. In the past, maybe you sought out attentive service, whereas now your primary concern is receiving your to-go order as quickly as possible. With that in mind, over the summer, Yelp added a COVID safety section allowing restaurants to explain what health and safety measures they were taking. But Yelp isn't just here to provide a platform for owners; it's also focused on customer reviews. And so, now, Yelp will display user-generated feedback on restaurant's pandemic practices, as well.

Masked server setting an indoor table
Credit: Getty Images

"Starting today, Yelp will display if users observed, or did not observe, the enforcement of social distancing and staff wearing masks," Akhil Kuduvalli Ramesh, Yelp's head of consumer product, explained in a post on the site's official blog. Ramesh continued that, instead of a chance to be critical of restaurants, this new feature "aims to instill confidence in consumers to continue supporting local businesses."

Image of cell phone screen in Yelp app with restaurant services options
Credit: Yelp

This information will appear as a statement under the "Health & Safety Measures" heading of a business's the COVID-19 section. Users will either see a green check next to the statements "Social distancing enforced" and "Staff wear masks" or an orange question mark next to the statements "Social distancing might not be enforced" and "Staff might not wear masks." Yelp explains that, for now, only these two items will be listed since "these are the health and safety precautions that can be most easily observed by customers."

Yelp emphasized that multiple criteria will be used to determine the listings—which will be regularly updated—to combat any biases. Reviews must be provided by a "consensus" of logged-in users, only within the past 28 days and, if the restaurant is a chain, only at one specific location. And if a business received an orange question mark, Yelp will further clarify if the info is from "most users" or just "some users."

"At launch, the orange question mark is only displayed on a couple hundred businesses out of the millions of businesses on Yelp—making it relatively uncommon as of today," Ramesh further wrote. "We've also implemented advanced technology to mitigate potential misuse of the feature."

Beyond adding this new feature for users, Yelp also announced they've added new options for businesses to update their COVID-19 section, too. Restaurants will now be able to choose from the following new designations: "Staff checked for symptoms," "Disposable or contactless menu," "Heated outdoor seating," "Covered outdoor seating," "Indoor dining," "Private dining," and "DIY meal kits."

"As the pandemic continues to change our daily lives, we are relentlessly focused on addressing the needs of both local businesses and consumers by providing helpful and up-to-date information during these uncertain times," Ramesh concluded. "We remain committed to continuing to support our community through the pandemic by building solutions that help them stay connected."