Food & Drink

Researchers use Yelp to predict whether restaurants will close

Contrary to his dearly-held belief, the singular Yelp reviews of Frank S. aren't going to shut any restaurant down. But Yelp can definitely play a role in a spot's success, as revealed in a new study from the University of Maryland.

The experiment was conducted by PhD student Jorge Mejia, assistant professor Shawn Mankad, and associate professor Anandasivam Gopal. The trio began their case study by singling out over 2,000 local restaurants that were reportedly open as of December 2013. They next identified around 450 that had closed between 2005 and 2014. Then came the tricky part: together they developed a computer-assisted text analysis tool that sifted through each restaurant's reviews for indicators of success or failure. Obviously words like "good", "great", "nice", and "service" were associated with survivors, but so were random ones like... "like". The group found that they were able to predict which restaurants had stayed open or closed to a statistically significant degree, which could make it a real asset to emerging restaurateurs. So far, they've yet to test their baby in the real world, but Flavor Flav might wanna jump on that before he tries another chicken & ribs joint.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and is terrified by the amount of influence Yelp wields. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.