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Yelp’s New Restaurant Awards Would Be Great If They Weren’t Coming From Yelp

Restaurant workers are skeptical of the Servies, from the same company that gives a platform to difficult customers.

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For restaurant employees, the past few years have been the pits. In theory, it makes sense to want to publicly thank the hosts, bartenders, and servers who have kept us fed and drunk throughout the pandemic. However, even if the concept for these awards is novel and exciting, restaurant staff aren’t delighted with who is behind them.

Yelp revealed the Servies on August 3. According to a blog post by the user generated reviews site, these are “the first-ever awards completely dedicated to front-of-house workers” employed in the United States. Anyone may now submit an application and suggest nominees for the prizes. A group of judges will choose the finalists based on a few (completely quantitative) factors, such as “flexibility, positivism, dependability, and memorability.” Throughout two weeks in September, the general public may vote for their preferred nominees.

Winners will earn what Yelp refers to as “the gift of a lifetime” and will be announced sometime in October. That corresponds to a pair of Snibbs slip-resistant work shoes, a Visa electronic gift card with a $3,000 preloaded balance, and a gold trophy with a stressed-out design of a pointer finger holding three meal plates.

The very people Yelp wishes to honor have collectively rolled their eyes at the news. The majority of the restaurant employees I talked to for this article perceive the ratings platform as either bad for the business and its employees, largely irrelevant, or both. It makes sense—is even valid—that these prizes would exist. But the notion that Yelp would bestow them is absurd. Like, say, a particular international peace medal established by the same person who created dynamite.

The “Best Host” award, which recognizes “the ones who hold their composure when a client is grumbling,” ignores the possibility that the very same diners could leave defamatory Yelp reviews after leaving the restaurant. The “Best Vibe” award, which goes to the “teammate who can put a grin on anyone’s face,” neglects to take into account the current onslaught of unruly patronage at restaurants. The team member known as “Best Hustle,” who doesn’t bat an eye “when things become too chaotic,” also appears unaware of the fact that front-of-house employees are leaving the business in large numbers because — as they put it — “things are getting too crazy.”

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According to Connie Wang, the 44-year-old owner, host, and waitress of Jackrabbit Filly in Charleston, South Carolina, Yelp is for customers rather than restaurant staff. She claims that she knows very few business owners or employees that genuinely check their Yelp ratings. It’s simply too discouraging.

Rashaad Jones, a 37-year-old former captain at New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, said he would turn down a Yelp award if nominated. Jones is unable to picture any of his coworkers accepting a Servie either, mostly since it originates from a platform that is not regarded favorably by the business community. Yelp doesn’t benefit anyone, he claims. “We need to move past that,”

The major issues facing the restaurant business are not something that Yelp is expected to address, nor is it what these awards are promising to achieve. However, some of the categories come across as pretty tone deaf, especially at a time when food service workers are more frequently dealing with obnoxious and entitled patrons, their tips appear to be declining, and staff shortages are making day-to-day work a grind for the workers who are still showing up every day. Yelp’s “prize of a lifetime” seems a little absurd in light of that.

Workers require access to healthcare, 401(k)s, increased pay, paid vacation, and sick days. Carson Hiner, a 28-year-old waiter and beer buyer at Fradei in Brooklyn, claims that it is unnecessary to determine which bartender wears the craziest fedora. Wang isn’t going to suggest any of her employees in Charleston. She does, however, believe that if a teammate won a Servie, it would be hilarious and the subject of an ongoing inside joke. For the staff celebration, we would undoubtedly create them posters or t-shirts.

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