As restaurants struggle to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic, Yelp says it will offer $25 million in relief to support independently owned restaurants.
“To get through this challenging and uncertain time, it’s important that we all come together as a community … and to help lift those hit hardest by the impact of this pandemic,” Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of the online restaurant-review company, wrote Friday (March 20) on Yelp’s blog.
He said the company is waiving advertising fees for small eateries and bars that remain open during the crisis. Firms will also receive free access to Yelp page upgrades to help facilitate communication of information like reduced operating hours.
Yelp is creating a banner alert that establishments can place on their review pages with special messages to customers. Businesses will be able to indicate if they’re temporarily closed, have adjusted their hours or are only open for takeout and delivery. Stoppelman said Yelp will also add a “contact-free” delivery option to a food ordering app that it offers in partnership with Grubhub.
The relief efforts are available to independently owned or franchised restaurants or nightlife spots in Canada or the United States (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Firms must also have fewer than five locations and must have purchased their products directly through Yelp rather than via a third party.
Yelp’s data show that patronage at U.S. restaurants has fallen by 54 percent over the past week, and 69 percent for nightlife businesses.
“We know businesses of all kinds are having to adapt and make rapid changes,” Stoppelman said.
The assistance comes as governors in five states – Massachusetts, California, Ohio, Illinois and Washington – have ordered bars and dine-in restaurants to shut down in an effort to slow COVID-19’s spread.