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Yelp and petition creator face off over delivery-related restaurant reviews

  KarensKillerReviews.com billboard
Yelp officials say this Yelp-like review of a San Diego restaurant on a billboard by in San Francisco was fabricated by KarensKillerReviews.com.
(Courtesy photo)

The pandemic has put the nation’s restaurant industry on the ropes, and many owners say a rise in negative online consumer reviews related to poor delivery service by third-party apps is hitting them below the belt.

To battle these business-damaging, one- and two-star reviews, a Bay area sign company named Raydiant has launched a national petition to stop review sites like Yelp! and Tripadvisor from publishing reviews for delivery issues that are not the restaurants’ fault. But the advertising campaign for the newly launched petition, Karen’s Killer Reviews, has Yelp officials seeing red.

Raydiant has posted billboards on pedicabs in San Diego, buildings in San Francisco and taxi cabs in New York featuring what Yelp officials say is a fictional one-star review made to look like it was published on the Yelp platform, about a fake restaurant from a customer named Karen in San Diego’s Sherman Heights neighborhood. The reviewer pictured in the false ad is Kate Gosselin, the reality TV star whose bilevel hairdo became a signature of “Karens,” the nickname on social media for White female consumers prone to making baseless complaints.

A Yelp spokesperson told the U-T that the ratings company has worked diligently since the pandemic began to flag and analyze low-starred reviews for unrelated customer complaints over issues like face mask, social-distancing regulations and delivery service.

The Yelp official said that between March 11 and Sept. 15, Yelp restaurant reviews that mention delivery received 4- or 5- star ratings twice as often as they received 1- or 2-star ratings. Also during that time, less than 6 percent of all Yelp restaurant reviews mentioned delivery.

In many cases these reviews are removed from the Yelp platform. But in the meantime, it can mean lost revenue for restaurateurs.

Mike Rosen, founder and CEO of San Diego’s Crack Shack fried-chicken restaurant chain, said last month that his third-party delivery business has risen sharply since the pandemic began and customers complaints related to delivery issues have risen with it. In some cases, delivery workers will arrive late at a restaurant to make a pickup and some will make multiple delivery stops, so the food is cold by the time it reaches the customer.

“I’ve been on the end of receiving these complaints,” Rosen said. “But I can promise that if you come and pick it up, it will be prepared hot and fresh.”

Raydiant hopes to collect 100,000 signatures for its petition and it is engaging the help of restaurant owners who have been targeted by unfair reviews. For details, visit karenskillerreviews.com.

Pam Kragen writes about restaurants and dining for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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