As more restaurants start requiring proof of vaccination for staff and customers, Yelp is taking measures to help both consumers and business owners alike.
In a new blog post, Yelp announced two new features for its restaurant listings. Businesses now have the ability to add one or both of the following attributes to their Yelp pages to help communicate their vaccination requirements to customers: "Proof of vaccination required" and "All staff fully vaccinated."
The new function is certainly helpful for business owners who want to make their COVID-19 protocols more visible to potential customers. It's also pretty handy for consumers since they can filter their search on the site to include or exclude businesses that require proof of vaccination.
Since COVID-19 vaccinations are still a hotly debated topic, Yelp is extensively monitoring the pages of restaurants and food and nightlife businesses who choose to add these attributes to their page. This is all in an effort to help prevent "review bombing," a practice where consumers who don't share a restaurant's stance flood the page with negative reviews.
"Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen incidents of 'review bombing' increase around the health and safety precautions businesses implement," the blog post reads. "Reviews from customers that criticize a business’s vaccination requirements violate our special COVID Content Guidelines, which were introduced in March 2020 to protect businesses from reputational harm related to the pandemic."
So far this year, Yelp says it has removed nearly 8,000 of these reviews. For its new COVID-19 attributes, the site is using a monitoring system similar to the one that was implemented when Yelp launched its "Black-owned" attribute in June 2020 and subsequent ones such as "Latinx-owned," "Asian-owned" and "LGBTQ-owned."
"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve placed Unusual Activity Alerts on a Yelp page when we uncover an influx of activity in response to a business gaining public attention for their stance on COVID health and safety practices — including requiring vaccinations for employees and/or customers," the blog post reads.
Last October, Yelp made headlines when it announced that it would be adding an alert on the pages of businesses that have been accused of racist behavior. This latest feature on the site is an additional step to help keep consumers more informed and protect businesses, as more of them announce vaccination requirements for customers.
Earlier this week, New York City became the first major US city to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the program, known as the "Key to NYC Pass," will begin mid-August and will be fully enforced beginning the week of Sept. 13.
In July, an uptick in cases among fully vaccinated bar workers in San Francisco prompted hundreds of bars in the area to announce that they would be requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests from customers who want to drink inside.
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, announced last week he would require indoor patrons and employees at his restaurants to show proof of vaccination.
In addition to vaccination requirements, business owners on Yelp can also update their page to include mask requirements and alert customers when and if staff is required to wear masks.