Yelp announced this morning that it’s making a number of changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, it says it will be providing $25 million to local restaurants and nightlife businesses that are seeing a massive drop in business as a result of the crisis. This will take the form of “waived advertising fees, and free advertising, products and services,” including free page upgrades for access to advanced promotional features.
This might not seem quite as helpful as cash grants that allow businesses to pay their bills, but Yelp’s data suggests that businesses are going to need help reaching customers as consumer interest in restaurants has fallen by 54% and 60% for nightlife businesses.
That drop, of course, is the correct response to the urgent need for social distancing, but Yelp says that as businesses shift their models — whether that’s to delivery/takeout or to virtual offerings — they need ways to tell their customers about it. So it will be offering new products to help them do that:
As many businesses transition to a virtual or online service model, we’ll soon be releasing new service offering selections for businesses to indicate if they offer virtual consultations, classes, tours, shows and performances, along with search functionality that will make these virtual services easy for people to find. Most businesses that offer a virtual service – such as yoga classes, therapy sessions, tax services, or tutoring sessions – will be able to let people know that they’re still open for business and available to the consumers that rely on their services.
And on the delivery side, Yelp says it will be adding support for contact-free delivery in its check-out process (through its partnership with Grubhub, which already offers this option).
The company also says it’s taking steps to ensure that businesses don’t suffer from unjustified “reputational harm” during the outbreak. For example, Yelp says it will have “zero tolerance for any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees, or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.”
Lastly, Yelp says it has mandated that all of its office employees work from home — which you’d think would be a no-brainer, but apparently there are some companies that disagree.