Yelp keeps restaurants full and diners happy using two-way SMS powered by Twilio

User star review


Yelp reviews

Planet with map pin

32 countries

with Yelp communities

Arrow trending up

2X increase

in Yelp Reservation's weekly SMS traffic

Yelp is a website and mobile app that connects people with great local businesses. Since Yelp launched in 2004, Yelp users have contributed over 102 million reviews on businesses of all sorts, giving their fellow users the information they need to decide where to take their business.

Yelp is empowering their network of businesses with the communication tools they need to keep their customers happy and their business booming.

Your table is ready now

Yelp customers can now text their favorite restaurants to make, modify, or cancel their reservations. Businesses can easily update their customers on wait times, reservation availability, and reply to their texts straight from Yelp Reservations.

The restaurant industry represents Yelps 2nd most reviewed business category, logging 18% of all reviews on the site. Yelp’s customer base isn’t just looking for restaurants, they’re browsing straight from their phones where they expect an immediate reply. In Q1 2016, over 70% of Yelp’s searches came from mobile devices, and 58% of photo and review content was generated on Yelp’s mobile app. Now that Yelp has doubled down on mobile engagement with two-way-SMS powered by Twilio, they can expect those numbers to rise.

User checking reviews of a restaurant
User checking reviews of a restaurant
Yelp reservation notification
Yelp reservation notification

At Liholiho Yacht Club, a popular restaurant in San Francisco, “tables at Liholiho are filled virtually as soon as they become available,” says Brian Howell, Engineering Manager at Yelp. Liholiho keeps the lucky customers who got seats up to date on their reservations by sending them SMS straight from Yelp Reservations. For the unlucky diners who missed out on a reservation, Liholiho reserves seats at the bar for walk-ins and coordinates the walk-in wait times via text using 2-way Diner Messaging. This way, diners aren’t anchored to the foyer of the restaurant. They know exactly when they’ll be seated, and can grab a drink somewhere else before dinner. Dining like this can only happen with mobile technology.

Communication is a critical part of that customer experience, and restaurants are capitalizing on the opportunity to communicate with customers via text. In just 12 months, Yelp doubled their weekly average inbound SMS traffic while giving their customers a whole new avenue of communication.

Enjoy your meal

Restaurants have to be able to adapt to the ebb and flow of reservations at a moment’s notice. Yelp Reservations gives restaurants the tools they need to manage their reservations, straight from an iPad. But, Yelp needed a way restaurants could reach out to their customers in the critical moments before their reservation time. They quickly decided on SMS as the medium for communication because of its immediacy, high open rates, and the fact that it’s inherently mobile-centric.

“It’s really reliable and we don’t have to think about it,” says Howell. Almost a year after Yelp implemented two-way SMS using Twilio’s Python Library, Twilio is scaling alongside their traffic. “We’re really happy with the performance and the stability,” says Howell.

Much like there’s a dinner rush at a restaurant, Yelp experiences a “rush” of traffic around certain times. Yelp has to be able to scale effortlessly to meet the communication needs of their customers, whether they’re diners or restaurant owners. Using Twilio, they don’t have to worry about scale, or messages being delayed. They’re able to operate at the same speed as their customers — real time.

Yelp scaling to the communication needs of their customers
Yelp scaling to the communication needs of their customers
Group of people having dinner
Group of people having dinner

As the reservation time draws closer, diners and restaurants rely on SMS as the easiest, most immediate form of communication.

Scott Short, owner of Table Six, is as impressed by Yelp Reservations’ architecture as he is its performance. As a IT veteran who worked serving Fortune 500 companies, he was stunned by Yelp Reservations’ ease of use, and how quickly the software became mission critical for his restaurant.

“I cannot imagine trying to operate our front of house without Yelp Reservations. I know my way around technology — and Yelp Reservations is one of the best pieces of reliable technology I’ve seen in my working career,” says Scott.

In bridging the communication gap, Yelp empowers restaurants to build better experiences for their customers, and customers to build business for their restaurants. The conversation between the two is just beginning.

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