Finding a restaurant can be tough if you don't eat meat, gluten or are on a low-carb diet. Yelp, the local search and review site, wants to make that process easier by personalizing search results for its US users.
The company said Tuesday it's rolling out a section for preferences that includes dietary restrictions to more users. You'll have seven options: vegetarian, gluten-free, halal, keto, kosher, pescatarian and vegan. A vegetarian, for example, will see different search results for restaurants than a meat lover.
"We've reduced a bunch of mental gymnastics, brought convenience and saved time for people and we've done it in an honest and transparent way," Akhil Ramesh, who heads consumer product at Yelp, said in an interview.
Currently, users with dietary restrictions have to look through a restaurant's menu or reviews to find a place to eat. Instead of writing a new algorithm, Yelp opted to give users a way to highlight their preferences to give them more control over their experience on the app, Ramesh said. If a user decides to quit a low-carb, high-fat diet like the keto diet, he or she will be able to change their preferences on the Yelp app.
The move illustrates how Yelp, which was founded in 2004 and makes most of its money from ads, is trying to retain and attract new users as larger tech companies incorporate reviews in their products. Google and Facebook include reviews for restaurants and businesses. Then there are services like TripAdvisor, OpenTable and FourSquare.
Last year,rolled out a feature that lets you see the most popular dishes at a restaurant. The app allows you to book a reservation, add your name to a waitlist and arrange delivery. The company is also redesigning the app to make it easier for users to navigate and the new look will come out next year, Ramesh said. In a nutshell, Yelp wants to be a one-stop shop for all things local.
Yelp's preferences will also let you highlight your lifestyle, including whether you're an auto owner, homeowner, parent and pet owner. There are options for gender-neutral restrooms and wheelchair accessibility as well. Users will be able to select their favorite food and drinks from bubble tea to burgers. You can also personalize results outside of restaurants by selecting interests such as arcades, hiking, gardening and home decor.
To access your preferences, you tap on a heart icon in the search tab of the app. The heart icon will appear in the search results under some restaurants and state why you're seeing that business. The app will also show you recommended searches like thai food or vegetarian pizza. You can change your preferences by visiting that section in a tab called "Me" at the bottom of the app.
On Tuesday, millions of people in the US who use the app on their Apple devices will get the option to personalize their search results. The feature will then roll out to all iOS users by this fall. Android users currently have a way to get personalized search results for dietary restrictions, but the full experience that includes options for your interests will be available next year.
As of June, there were 192 million reviews on Yelp. About 37 million people log into the Yelp app every month and the company had 77 million unique visitors who browsed the site on the mobile web. About 62 million users logged into the site via desktop every month.