The feud between a small Italian restaurant in California and the Yelp review site is getting more intense. The owners of Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant in Richmond, California, are upset with the review site for its policy of running competitors’ ads right next to Botto Bistro reviews.
In the past restaurant owners have claimed the policy is probably an effort on Yelp’s part to get restaurants with free review pages on the site to buy an ad, as well. There have also been claims the site is deliberately highlighting negative reviews of businesses for the same reason.
But a recent decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Yelp’s ad sales practices did not violate any laws and equated them to “hard bargaining” and nothing more, Ars Technica reports.
Now, Botto Bistro is offering 50 percent off any pizza for customers who leave a low 1-star review of the place at Yelp.
That’s upping the stakes. Botto Bistro had been offering 25 percent off meals in exchange for the bad reviews. That discount program was stopped after Yelp charged that this was in violation of the site’s policies.
The idea behind the discount plan is to lower the rating of Botto Bistro enough that it doesn’t appear on search results.
The owners also tried to remove the restaurant entirely from Yelp, but the site said that violated its policies, too.
Owners of the restaurant even posted defiantly to their Facebook page recently:
“We are proud to be part of the Italian-American community, we don’t want to be part of the Yelp community and we will not be part of it in any way. Our [sic] is an idiot free environment, we like to keep it that way.”
The last time Botto Bistro ran this discount-for-bad-reviews promotion, business spiked so much it had to hire five new employees. It may not be as successful this time, though. Yelp seems to have caught on to the practice and begun removing these intentionally bad reviews. In a lot of reviews posted to Yelp about Botto Bistro, customers say that previous reviews they had posted were deleted.
In this second go-round, it will be interesting to see if the discount promotion works as well as it did the first time.
Image: Yelp/Botto Bistro