- Yelp has paused its automatic rollout of its GoFundMe feature on independent restaurants' Yelp pages and is working with GoFundMe to create an opt-in function going forward, Yelp told Restaurant Dive in an emailed statement. "A GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible business, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so. However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program."
- Since launching a partnership with GoFundMe last week, which automatically created GoFundMe pages seeking $2,500 for independent restaurants on their Yelp pages without consent, the review site has been met with strong backlash from restaurateurs.
- Andy McMillan, the owner of a nonalcoholic Portland cocktail bar called SuckerPunch, tweeted last week that he struggled with Yelp to get them to shut down his fundraising page and had to go through numerous steps to try to get it taken down. Many more restaurant owners have taken to Twitter to voice their frustration with the practice, which some feel could undermine restaurants' existing fundraising efforts.
Yelp's well-intentioned miscalculation is just the latest instance of restaurant-adjacent technology firms ignoring the consent of independent restaurants.
The most pervasive — and contested — example of this is non-partner listings by third-party delivery companies. While this new fundraising feature was intended to help make restaurants money amid the coronavirus closures, it has drawn a lot of anger. Yelp and GoFundMe plan to match $1 million of donations generated in $500 grants to businesses that raise at least $500 on their automated GoFundMe pages.
Beyond the initial consent issue, some restaurants have been angered by the assumption that their business is now a charity case, and are worried that this perception could harm their brand reputations. A GoFundMe could also draw donations away from fundraising efforts that restaurants have launched on their own websites and benefit from directly. This could dilute the money that the restaurant would have received otherwise; GoFundMe suggests, but does not require, that donors make a 15% tip for its service along with their donation.
Even though Yelp pumped the brakes on the automatic GoFundMe rollout just a few days after the initial launch, serious damage could be done to restaurant trust. In a time of unprecedented financial crisis for the industry, many restaurants want options, not hoops to jump through so they can opt out of something they didn't sign up for.