Book Review – Yelp Help by Hanna Raskin

  • Yelp Help – How to Write Great Online Restaurant Reviews
  • By Hanna Raskin
  • Publisher – CreateSpace
  • Copyright 2013
  • 91 pages


Rating – 4/10

Summary – Restaurant critic Hanna Raskin purports to show us how to write better restaurant reviews. The price for the electronic version ($2.99) is right and she has some good ideas. However, she “pads out” the book by quoting at length from other people’s reviews and much of her advice is intuitive (and available for free from other sources).

Review – It’s been a while since I’ve written a restaurant review, but I’ve been thinking that I might give it another try. Then I saw that professional reviewer Hanna Raskin (currently at Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier), had written Yelp Help, a how-guide that I could get for just $2.99I gave Yelp Help a trybut I was disappointed.

The Big Issue – Mediocre, Unfocused Content

If a restaurant serves lousy food, the decor and the service don’t matter. Similarly, Yelp Help’s content is mediocre and its problems all come back to that issue. Raskin didn’t have enough material (even for 90 pages), so she tried to fill in with whatever thoughts crossed her mind. As a result, the book wanders far from the original idea and fails to hold the reader’s attention.

At the beginning of the book, Raskin indulges in a long discussion of how restaurants operate. She includes a laundry list of all of the jobs that are available in restaurants. In my opinion, this material is boring and offers only minimal help to potential reviewers.

Throughout the book, Raskin includes too many reviews that she has copied verbatim from various sources. These reviews would be much more helpful if Raskin offered more commentary on what these reviews illustrate. Too often, she just quotes from these reviews and includes minimal or insight as to what the reader is supposed to take away from them.

To Be Fair, Raskin Makes Some Good Points

Raskin does provide some material that you can use if I want to write reviews. For instance, pages 60 – 63 offer a basic set of criteria that you should examine when visiting a restaurant. The criteria fall under the following headings –

  • location,
  • decor,
  • ambience,
  • service,
  • menu,
  • beverages,
  • food (with separate criteria for preparation, presentation, and taste), and
  • general.

Though there are similar checklists available online, Raskin has some good insights on how to examine a restaurant.

Similarly helpful is her generic outline for how to structure your review (pages 65-67) –

  1. Thesis,
  2. background,
  3. physical description,
  4. acknowledgment of other reviews,
  5. vignettes supporting thesis, and
  6. conclusion.

To be sure, there are some pearls of wisdom for the reader who can get through the book. But there’s a lot of mediocre material. Even some of her good advice on how to write (or not write) reviews is not particularly deep, or insightful. For instance, would-be reviewers are told to avoid cliches in their writing.

Time to Pay the Bill & Leave

Yelp Help can assist potential reviewers examine their dining experiences. But – even at $2.99 per copy – it’s not a great value. To improve reviews, I recommend first using the free advice that is widely available on the ‘net.


About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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