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Why Is the Yelp Rating for Tallula’s So Low?

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The algorithm leaves out some very important positive reviews from the Santa Monica restaurant

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The bar at Tallula’s
Wonho Frank Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Yelp has been accused around the industry for doctoring its reviews, and sometimes business owners have the feeling that they’re being messed around with so that they’re more compelled to advertise on the restaurant review site.

Now check out the Yelp page for Tallula’s, one of the Westside’s splashiest new openings, with celebrated chefs Jeremy Fox and Mario Alberto producing a classic Mexican-American menu. They have the backing of beloved restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan (Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon, Cassia), who have years of experience running quality establishments. It’s truly bizarre to see their newish restaurant sitting around with a two-star Yelp average.

The dismal ratings, however, seem to be weighed down by the lack of any positive reviews. In fact, a keen eye might see that way down below, there are currently 131 “other reviews” that are “not recommended,” while a paltry 49 reviews remain “eligible.” A brief note says that these reviews “didn’t make the cut and are therefore not factored into this business's overall star rating.” Not only that, it seems that a small handful of reviews were removed outright “for violating the Terms of Service,” and one can see that all of those were indeed one star reviews.

What’s going on here? There are only 49 reviews that officially passed the algorithm and are factored into the two-star review. Just trying to access the banned reviews is tiresome and arduous. So with those 131 reviews edited out, it means that Tallulas’ rating could be even lower than it is portrayed at the moment. However, digging even deeper into this wasteland of banned reviews shows that there are plenty of four and five star reviews that would increase the average to higher than two. In fact, there are pages and pages of five star reviews that are made grey and hard to read, left out of Tallulas’ public page.

Josh Loeb has reached out to Yelp to see if they could amend the situation, and the Yelp reps simply say it’s an algorithm that they have no control over. While Yelp seems to be more aggressive when filtering out its reviews, a Tallula’s representative writes in to say that Google reviews currently have Tallula’s at 4.2 out of five while TripAdvisor, a popular review site used by tourists, has it rated as a 4.5 out of five.

Many of the four and five star reviews that have been filtered out read like any other Yelp review for any other business, though some of the five star reviews do seems a bit too effusive. Still, the ratio of accepted to not-accepted reviews looks very much out of line, even for Yelp, and especially for a restaurant that was this highly anticipated. Perhaps the next move to make peace with Yelp, as David Chang did.