Monday, May 17, 2010
Troubled review site Yelp creates good-PR-wooing advisory council
The panel includes Adam Saxton of Dallas.
Beset by various lawsuits, review site Yelp has created a small business advisory council with 10 business owners from around the country that include Dallas restaurateur Adam Saxton of Saxton Pierce Restaurant Corporation, which operates McAlister’s Deli and Pinkberry in Texas.
Yelp announced the council on its blog as follows:
Last month, we announced the creation of the Yelp Small Business Advisory Council (YSBAC), a formalized organization of business owners who will provide Yelp management with input and guidance regarding the concerns of small business owners. Business owners across the nation were invited to submit their applications to join YSBAC where they would have the opportunity to provide perspective about the SMB community to Yelp.
After receiving and evaluating over 700 applications, we are excited to share the 10 members of this inaugural council who will serve an annual term:
Jeff Diamond, Farmstead Wines & Cheeses (Alameda, CA / Montclair Village, CA)
Tim Gorin, MyEyeDr, (37 locations throughout Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC)
Ashley Hankins, Salon Ami (Scottsdale, AZ)
Jay Hariz, Bridal Rings Company (Los Angeles, CA)
Gina Higgins, The Irish Times (South Miami, FL)
Kurt Huffman, Pok Pok / Ping / Foster Burger / Gruner / Whiskey Soda Lounge (Portland, OR)
Adam Saxton, Pinkberry (Dallas / Arlington, TX)
Jay Sofer, Lockbusters (New York, NY)
Keniey Sonley, Saj Mediterranean Grill (Cenntenial, CO)
Joel Spainhour, Tucker Pup's Dog Activity Center (Chicago, IL)
The goal was to create a "diverse group," but it looks like they factored in geography, too. Activities for the council include a trip to Yelp HQ in San Francisco for meetings with Yelp's executive team, and a monthly conference call.
Applicants were asked to write an essay, Saxton says.
"I like that they picked diverse people with different types of businesses," he says. "What I'm excited about -- and this is what I wrote in my essay - is the opportunity to recognize the franchise side of business. We know this country is full of franchisees, and one part of that kind of business is that our marketing practices are controlled and decided on by our corporate partners. Yelp is a way for us to interact on a more local level than the message coming from a corporate office."
Yelp's troubles started in early 2009 with a story that found dozens of business owners who claimed that Yelp was deleting positive reviews and highlighting negative ones in order to convince them to buy advertising.
Inc. Magazine did a damning profile in January that documented a physical confrontation between a business owner and a reviewer, while in March, Yelp was hit by its third lawsuit, joined by more than a dozen companies. By April, Yelp was being called a "modern-day Mafia".
But Saxton says he finds Yelp useful for gauging customer feedback and to post specials and offers.
"If there was a potential for me to be a part of how it's going to change, I thought it would be good to have some influence," he says.
Mike Orren contributed to this story.