The app will let users select cuisines, amenities, and other options to make recommendations.

By Mike Pomranz
August 28, 2019
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Yelp helped pioneer a sea change in the way people choose restaurants with a simple idea: Everyone's opinion matters — eschewing the power of critics for the kind of global word-of-mouth consensus that only the internet can offer. But the truth is everyone's opinion doesn't matter, at least to you specifically. Someone who is spice averse may never appreciate your favorite Thai restaurant. And that horrible restaurant that won't stop kids from running around may be just the scene your family is looking for. So after 15 years, Yelp is acknowledging this conundrum, letting users add personal preferences into the app so it can tailor your experience to you.

"With its vast amount of rich content and data — which includes more than 192 million reviews, as well as millions of photos and attributes generated by an engaged community of users and business owners — Yelp is able to identify and surface business information that is deeply aligned with consumer needs," the company writes in the announcement. "Rather than serving recommendations solely based on a user's search history, Yelp is starting an open conversation with consumers to better understand their preferences and interests in order to customize the app to show them what they want to see more of."

Specifically, users will now have the option to enter information on things like dietary preferences, accessibility needs, and lifestyle details on things like kids and pets. And in the area of food and drink, people can select from over 30 categories to focus on, "from brunch to happy hour, and Chinese to pizza — letting Yelp confidently recommend cuisines they'll enjoy most."

"By making [Yelp] more personalized, we're saving people time and giving them an easy way to find the right business for them," Vivek Patel, Yelp's chief product officer, explained. "Now, Yelp will help you discover businesses and activities based on who you are and what you like to do."

A tailored experience does sound nice; however, I would be remiss not to mention that accusations of playing with results has gotten Yelp in trouble in the past. At least some restaurants have alleged that the company tacitly employees a pay-to-play model where official partners receive better treatment. Running results through a new, more mysterious algorithm could potentially renew that controversy. And speaking of controversies, personalization also means you'll be handing over more of your personal data. Even if it is relatively inconsequential stuff like your love of Thai food, some users might see that as a turnoff.

For now, though, the personalization option is just that — an option. So if you're sick of having to remind Yelp which kinds of cuisines you like every time you use the app (I like Thai food, damn it!), this is the solution for you.

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