Restaurant Owners Ask For Patience, Customers Leave Poor Yelp Reviews During Pandemic

"Just give us a break right now, because it's been really tough on restaurants"

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A Yelp representative said the company is working with restaurant owners and customers to moderate bad reviews associated with the pandemic.

Since March, some customers have posted poor ratings because of public health requirements. Some restaurant owners have received poor reviews based on longer than average wait times for to-go orders.  

“Yelp is a big deal. Yelp is a very big deal. A lot of people look at Yelp and that’s where they decide where they want to eat,” said Sandra Cardet, the owner of Havana Grill in Clairemont.

Cardet describes the restaurant as a Cuban, fine, casual restaurant. “You’ve got the ambiance, the Cuban hospitality, the music.”

She and her staff had earned 4.5 stars, with more than 1,100 reviews.

“I am very proud of what we’ve done here and all of my staff have been amazing,” said Cardet, She takes the restaurant’s Yelp reviews very seriously and said it’s a direct impact on her and her employees’ livelihoods. The majority of the ratings are 4 and 5 stars.

“It makes me feel like gosh, all that effort, we were appreciated. And they (customers) know the value and the quality of the food,” Cardet said.

She takes accountability when a bad review is brought to her attention.

“We have taken to heart and we have made changes,” said Cardet.

But if a bad review is related to the pandemic, Cardet said she doesn’t feel it’s fair. A recent customer left a review complaining about waiting too long for a to-go order. The customer said there was not a to-go system in place and wrote, “They need a better system to keep up with COVID restrictions.”

Cardet argued that there is a good to-go system in place and is asking customers to be patient with restaurant staff.

She said many restaurants, including Havana Grill, is understaffed. She said many restaurant employers lost employees after the first shutdown and there is more work to be done to keep up with public health orders.

“Employees have to disinfect your debit card before handing it back to you, to disinfect point of sale keypads, telephones,” Cardet said.

A Yelp spokesperson told NBC 7 it's monitoring reviews and plan to make amendments to reviews if necessary.

“It’s the middle of a pandemic and none of us have ever been through this. Go with the flow. Just chill. Have a mojito!,” Cardet said.

Havana Grill is operating outside, utilizing its private parking lot to accommodate more guests and is offering to-go meals.

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