Why Does Yelp Hate Food Trucks?

Yelp doesn’t care about food trucks.



So I changed the word from “hate” to “care” (admittedly I used it to get your attention) but the idea is still the same. What’s interesting when we look back in time is that Yelp was a “disrupter“.  They leveraged the internet and social media to gain traction on a new path; a concise, relevant and omnipresent rating system that lived online and helped everyday people like you and I to level the playing field.

They upturned the restaurant and service sector on their heads.  And in doing so they created a “tribe” that was loyal, dedicated and showed perseverance.

So when the “food truck revolution” came about I thought for sure that Yelp would respond in a brotherly fashion and adapt their reviews for the food truck scene.  But I was wrong. Somewhere along the “corporate” line, long after the start up spirit left the body like a soul leaving for the heavens after death, a group of executives decided not to give the movement it’s credence.

No follow up either.  No due diligence on the movement.  No pulse.

How Yelp can embrace the Food Truck Revolution

Let’s break down some components of an actual Yelp review for a food truck and it’s city landing pages for them.  We’ll start backwards with single page review of a food truck on mobile (it’s pretty much the same on a laptop).

yelp-example-page-of-food-truck

 

With a tweak of a little code, Yelp could take 8 outdated “restaurant” descriptors and swap them out for something more relevant and friendly to the food truck scene.  Here are some ideas below:

Here are some ideas below:

Change Take Reservations, Delivery or Take-Out to Do they Cater?

This simple question would let everyone know whether or not this truck is ready for prime time. Essentially, can I hire this truck for my wedding, bat mitzvah, or corporate event?

Change Ambiance to Vibe.

Each food truck does have its own vibe.  What contributes to that vibe is what events they frequent, do they play music around their truck, their overall theme of the truck, etc.  A little insight into that would go a long way.

What contributes to that vibe is what events they frequent, do they play music around their truck, their overall theme of the truck, etc.  A little insight into that would go a long way.

Each food truck does have its own vibe.  What contributes to that vibe is what events they frequent, do they play music around their truck, their overall theme of the truck, etc.  A little insight into that would go a long way for the customer and the truck but we wouldn’t call it ambiance.  A more hip and relevant term would be vibe.

Outdoor Seating still works as some food trucks are posted semi-permanently at food truck parks.

But they could add some additional descriptors on there like bench seating, stand up cocktail tables, etc.

Good for Kids works just fine but can be expanded

This descriptor works for us, but there is room to get more granular.  They could tell the customer if the food truck has a kids menu or bite-size portions

Location. Location. Location.

Of course this section is really useless as food truck are always mobile.  However, what would be relevant and helpful would be a sort of “bread crumb” trail of known locations based on Tweets so the customer has a more general idea of where that particular food truck roams within the city.

Let’s say an average of places or a perimeter of sorts that helps guide the customer and not waste their time.  For example, I might love a certain truck but I’m not traveling all the way to the Westside of LA to see them if I hang out in Silverlake??

City Landing Pages

better-rating-ideas_Yelp

We love the Neighborhoods section but it can definitely be re-worked.

We suggest an expandable city link that lists some of the food truck parks within the area or even a stand alone link just for them.  Or maybe even popular corners where food trucks congregate.  In Los Angeles that would be in Venice in the Abbot Kinney section…maybe say at the corner of Kinney & Palms Blvd?

Prices is another category like the Yelp map we feel is useless for food trucks.  

Pricing is pretty consistent across the scene and if a particular food truck is a little higher in price, it’s not enough to register too much on the radar.  Definitely not the swing you see in pricing from say a fast casual diner to a white tablecloth 4 star restaurant.  This category should either be taken off or have a disclaimer of expectations.

Features is great and we can think of all kinds of things to place here.

Do they take credit or cash only?  Are they on a ticket number system like a deli or do they run a sexy POS operating system?

Review Snippets (“Fresh Food Truck Reviews”) are great but how are they determined?

Yelp will probably never tell us but it would be cool to sort these by maybe those trucks that just we’re at a major festival in the area or maybe by a rotating category like “vegan” or “comfort food”

Wrap Up

Are you seeing the shortcomings yet?  Yelp has the size and scale to put this differentiation into action but they haven’t yet. It’s almost as if they are waiting by the sidelines to see if the food truck revolution is going to last.  Well guess what?  The industry is projected to do $1.7 billion in revenues by 2017.  That’s enough to rouse any CEO’s attention we think.

Yelp has the size and scale to put this differentiation into action but they haven’t yet. It’s almost as if they are waiting by the sidelines to see if the food truck revolution is going to last.  Well, guess what?  The industry is projected to do $1.7 billion in revenues by 2017. That’s enough to rouse any CEO’s attention we think.

And the biggest improvement we feel could be deployed immediately is location services.

Whether by logging Tweet locations and then displaying on the mobile app or actually paying or leasing GPS devices to food truck owners…Yelp could scale and dominate in this space immediately.  The current food truck locator apps available are lacking and so Yelp could really lead the segment with a little innovation.  I even wrote an article about the current app offerings out there right now.

 

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So what are your thoughts?
We like to hear from you below in the comments.  What innovations would you like to see?  What did we miss?  Were we fair enough?

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4 Comments on "Why Does Yelp Hate Food Trucks?"

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I forgot to mention – An important thing to remember when adding a new food truck.

When entering information, enter a city and state, but DO NOT enter a fixed address nor a zip code. When there is a fixed address, people can only check-in when near that address…and we all know that food trucks roam…not necessarily freely (thanks to local regulations), but they do tend to stay within a single metropolitan region.

As Yelp’s “Uncrowned King of DC Food Trucks” in the Washington DC area, I feel compelled to pipe in. Great observations and suggestions, but I don’t think that Yelp hates nor do they not care about food trucks. They just have not put the focus that is deserved on modifying the Yelp model to allow for better food truck classification. My suggestions, in order of importance, are: 1. Not requiring (or implying that) a fixed physical address be assigned when adding a business under the category “Food Truck” 2. Allow entry of not just website, but twitter and facebook URLs… Read more »
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