It’s no secret that customer review systems like Yelp aren’t exactly objective or fair. So one chef in California decided to try to beat the system by asking his customers to leave him 1-star reviews on Yelp.
Italy-born Davide Cerretini owns Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant in the Bay Area. Davide was an early adopter of Yelp, which was launched in 2004, and he’s well aware of how much a Yelp rating can impact business.
A half-star difference in a restaurant’s Yelp rating can increase peak-hours foot traffic by as much as 19%, HuffPost reports.
But it’s not that simple. Davide tells The Hustle that, after opening Botto Bistro, Yelp salespeople tried hard to convince him to buy ads. When he turned them down, 5-star reviews were removed from his page.
“Yelp was manipulating reviews and hoping I would pay a protection fee. I didn’t come to America and work for 25 years to be extorted by some idiot in Silicon Valley,” he said.
Desperate to succeed on Yelp, Davide resorted to writing his own 5-star reviews to replace the ones that Yelp had removed. He also wrote critical reviews of neighboring restaurants.
“I wasn’t a good guy,” he admitted.
The ensuing months brought more frustrations with Yelp. Davide realized that the website was “completely controlling [his] reputation,” and it gave him an idea.
“What if I don’t give a shit about reputation? What if I take away their power by actually making it worse?” he wondered.
So, he offered customers a discount on pizza for giving him a 1-star review on Yelp.
His page soon filled with 1-star reviews… while his restaurant filled with customers. His idea worked — he had outsmarted Yelp, and people loved it.
“It wasn’t about the discount, or the pizza, or even the reviews,” he says. “It was about the general public saying enough is enough. They no longer wanted to be surrounded by Yelpers’ bullshit.”
Botto Bistro became the worst-rated restaurant on Yelp, and business is booming.
In fact, this is what they say on their website:
“We made it! It’s official, Botto Bistro is the worst restaurant ever on Yelp and in Yelp’s world.
We are the only One star restaurant on Yelp, and our goal is finally reached!
Get an immediate 50% OFF any pizza for your One star review.
Take a quick screenshot to show it to us, as Yelp’s special Botto team removes our reviews as fast as possible. Busy people…so far they removed just about 3,000 of Botto’s one star reviews.
How cute and adorable is that? They are busy people thanks to us.”
FIGHT THE POWER!