Yelp was the first food community I joined online back in 2006 after I was introduced by a Xanga friend living in San Francisco. Since then I have gone on to write over 500 reviews on Yelp and been a member of their Elite squad since 2006 as well. Yelp always had aspirations for Tampa and sent me free Yelp goods (including a t-shirt and hoodie) during my first few years as a member. I was one of the first reviewers, plowing my way through Tampa Bay. Reviewing every restaurant and business I interacted with.
Despite all the reviews Yelp Tampa never seemed to kick-off. I began losing interest as I noticed no sense of community was being built in Tampa like other cities. Over time Yelp grew and in 2009, a few consistent members began to have Unofficial Yelp Events (UYEs) around town. I joined a few and some dining trails included an Asian tour, pizza tour, and many trips to The Wat Thai Temple. Many Yelpers were bitter that Yelp would not allow them to become Elite members because Yelp did not recognize Tampa as an Elite city.
The Yelp Tampa crew on the 4th of July in 2009 at Pine Tree Karaoke Cafe (now called One Family Korean Restaurant) during our Asian tour weekend.
They continued reviewing and contributing for years on, hoping that Yelp would finally someday give Tampa Bay a chance. Finally, earlier this year Yelp announced it would be hiring a Community Manager for Tampa Bay…a sign that Tampa would soon be developing into a Yelp Elite city. Yelp Elite members contribute regularly to the site and have exclusive events they can attend around town, usually at local restaurants or bars with exclusive promotions and it is a great way for Elite members out of town to meet the locals. The Community Manager helps organize official events and find events around the city to promote on the website. A foodie network is vital to this growth.
This week an Events tab appeared for Yelp Elite members to submit events and Review of the Day (ROTD), a way to recognize excellent reviews, also appeared on the home site for Tampa. It’s exciting to think where this could go and how this can help Tampa’s food scene grow as the powerful social media site Yelp backs the way. I know I’ll be motivated to keep contributing as much as possible. Congrats Yelp Tampa reviewers! Your hard work has now paid off.