Starting Thursday, Yelp will add an alert on the pages of businesses that have been accused of racist behavior, following several widely covered allegations of racism at U.S. restaurants in recent months.
The crowdsourced review platform is often the first place customers go to sound the alarm about discriminatory or racist behavior at businesses, discouraging other potential patrons from spending their money there.
"Communities have always turned to Yelp in reaction to current events at the local level. As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions," said a Yelp blog post.
The new "Business Accused of Racist Behavior" alert, paired with a red icon, will appear at the top of the page for a business that has been accused of "overtly racist actions" that have been covered by the media. It will also include a link to a news article where the user can read more about the incident. Yelp's public attention alert, which launched earlier this year in response to Black Lives Matter protests, will be placed as a warning on pages for businesses that receive increased attention, whether they're being accused of racist behavior or are being targeted by racist reviews.
A surge of attention can often lead to an influx of fake reviews from people who don't have firsthand experience visiting a particular businesses. As a result, those reviews can artificially inflate or deflate a business' star rating on Yelp. The new alert is designed to help provide context so people can make their own decisions about whether or not to patronize a business.
There has been an increased focus on spotlighting and supporting Black-owned businesses since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, as the country addresses systemic racism. Yelp reported a 617% surge in reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses compared to last summer, but noted the volume of reviews reporting racist behavior also increased.
"Between May 26 and September 30, we placed more than 450 alerts on business pages that were either accused of, or the target of, racist behavior related to the Black Lives Matter movement," the company said. "We have maintained around-the-clock support over the last few months to ensure that we’re maintaining the trust and safety of our users and business owners."
The launch of the new alert comes after a number of recent allegations of racist actions at restaurants prompted online backlash.
Last month, Fred's Breakfast Club of New Hope, a 31-seat, diner-style restaurant in Pennsylvania was called out for displaying a racist sign on its wall.
According to reviews on Yelp, customers have been respectfully asking the restaurant to remove it for years.
In September 2018, reviewer "Michael L." wrote, "Food was good but the racist mess on the wall not so much.
In June, Luigi Petrone, the co-owner of Tutto Pazzo restaurant in Long Island, New York, was called out for racist remarks when he referred to those peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd as a "bunch of kids, little punks, they look like little animals, savages" on Facebook Live.
That same month, Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns Ouzo Bay in Baltimore, Maryland, apologized after a video surfaced of a Black woman and her 9-year-old son being denied service because of the way the boy was dressed, even though a white boy who was similarly dressed was apparently served.