Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Technology

OpenTable vs. Yelp for restaurant reviews – what I learned from making dinner reservations


When you’re looking for restaurant reviews, where do you go?

I think most of you would say Yelp. I tend to do the same.

But earlier this week, while I was searching for a restaurant to make a rezzie for Valentine’s Day, I realized that OpenTable has SO MANY MORE reviews than Yelp. Did you know that?

For Rural Society (where we’re going on Tuesday – have you been?), Yelp has 280 reviews, while OpenTable has more than two times the number, 571.

For Woodward Table, Yelp has 370 reviews, while OpenTable has 1136! More than 3x!

For Art and Soul, Yelp has 719 reviews and OpenTable has 3840! That’s more than 5x!

What’s going on here?

The questions I pondered were:

  1. Why is Yelp so much more top of mind than OpenTable when looking for restaurant ratings and reviews?
  2. Why does OpenTable have so many more reviews?
  3. Which site should I trust more when looking for restaurant reviews?

Why is Yelp so much more top of mind than OpenTable when looking for restaurant ratings and reviews?

This is the case because Yelp’s primary reason for existence is to provide reviews of local businesses, primarily restaurants, to its users.

One the other hand, OpenTable’s main use case is to make reservations, and the reviews are a secondary feature.

Thus, Yelp is able to focus on communicating its core value proposition of restaurant ratings and reviews. So when they run online or TV ads, they can focus on how they have real reviews from real people. Then when their users talk about their app, they’ll use the same jargon.

That focus can be a very powerful thing in staying top of mind and acquiring users.

Why does OpenTable have so many more reviews?

The reason why OpenTable has so many more reviews is simple – because they own the transaction of making reservations.

People primarily use Yelp to research restaurants they might eat at. And while you can make reservations through Yelp (they actually had a partnership with OpenTable for years to do so), this is a secondary offering. There are relatively few transactions that happen on Yelp.

You use OpenTable to transact, and that’s a very powerful place for them to be. In order to make a rezzie, you need to sign up and login. Then they can capture and store your info and restaurant preferences, and deliver deals and specials to you.

And because they own that transaction, they are able to prompt you for a review after each time you’ve gone to a restaurant, which is why they have so many more reviews than Yelp.

Owning the transaction was one of the primary reasons why Unilever spent $1 billion to acquire Dollar Shave Club.

Because Unilever typically sold their products through supermarkets and drug stores, they had no relationship with the end customer. They had no idea who was buying their product and how often. On the other hand, Dollar Shave Club had tons of information about their customers’ buying habits.

Apparently, that’s worth a lot of money.

Which site should I trust more when looking for restaurant reviews?

This is an interesting question.

Yelp has done a great job recruiting reviewers who write very in-depth, comprehensive reviews of their experiences. Most Yelp reviews are multiple paragraphs long and many include images. On the other hand, the reviews on OpenTable are typically much shorter and less detailed.

But with Yelp, you can only give a single star rating, which represents the overall experience with your meal. On OpenTable, you can provide ratings for food, ambiance, service, and value, which give the reader a more multi-faceted profile of the dining experience. Both are on a scale of 1-5, which I really hate. It doesn’t give the reviewer enough of a range to give a meaningful rating; I prefer 1-7. Just sayin.

And the amount of reviews! Yelp has significantly fewer reviews per restaurant than OpenTable. If you’re a proponent of the wisdom of the crowds, OpenTable is the place to be.

And from a small sample size that I looked at, it seems like the ratings on Yelp, on average, are lower than that of OpenTable. Are Yelpers more discerning? I’m not sure.


I found it very interesting when I discovered that OpenTable had so many more reviews.

From this discovery, I came to two conclusions.

Yelp will probably still be the first place I look when searching for restaurant reviews, but I think I’ll also refer to OpenTable’s reviews for more context.

I also realized how valuable owning the transaction is for a business; in this case, for amassing a high volume of reviews. OpenTable has a great business where restaurants pay them for every reservation made by a diner, and they are certainly the market leader when it comes to online restaurant reservations.

And even though reviews are a secondary feature of the platform, they are extremely valuable. OpenTable has done a great job in amassing so many more reviews than Yelp. And I think if they wanted to highlight their restaurant reviews to garner more traffic and go head-on against Yelp, they can certainly do so effectively.

Funny how much you can learn from making dinner reservations, huh?

Photo courtesy of Tzahy Lerner on Wikimedia Commons

I love when things just work

Good products just seamlessly work, with no problems. I love when that happens.

My Macbook, even though it’s old, still works just fine. My Android Nexus 5 phone has lasted almost three years (a lifetime for smartphones) without being buggy. My thermos keeps my tea hot for hours, just like the label said it would.

Comcast cable and internet works half the time (thank God I have Fios now). The Bluetooth connection in my car sucks. The Hootsuite Android app, while valuable to someone who manages multiple social media accounts, sometimes doesn’t listen to me. My dishwasher is the quietest dishwasher I’ve ever used but the dishes don’t always come out clean.

If you can depend on a product just doing its job as advertised, that’s a good product. The other bells and whistles are just gravy.

Some of the best products are the ones we don’t have to think about. It’s pretty simple – build something that works, do what you say you can do, and everyone wins.

I love when things just work.

What are some of the products that just work for you? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Two topics – being sick sucks, and NFL on Twitter

I’ve been sick the last couple of days, so I didn’t write a blog post yesterday. To make up for it, I’m going to write about two topics today. Yay!

Being sick sucks

First topic – being sick sucks. Not just because it physically doesn’t feel good, but it makes me feel worthless.

As much as lying on the couch watching Band of Brothers and other TV shows sounds great, being sick makes me feel that I am shirking my other responsibilities, inconveniencing others, and disrupting people’s schedules.

First, I got no work done the last couple of days, and that work is piling up. Doesn’t make me feel good.

And I’ve had to move a bunch of meetings around. I had to cancel a podcast interview (I would have sounded like shit), and postpone some other calls and meetings. I don’t like to disrupt other’s schedules like that.

Also, I typically get my baby Maya dressed in the morning while my wife walks the dog. She and my mother-in-law have had to cover for me the last couple of days while I slept in. I’m inconveniencing them.

So while rest and relaxation is necessary to recover, my mind just didn’t rest well knowing the residual effects of my sickness.

I just won’t get sick next time. :)

NFL on Twitter

Yesterday, the NY Jets played the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football, and it was the first NFL game ever live-streamed on Twitter.

I watched some of the game and it was pretty awesome (both the game and the live-stream).

Here is what it looked like (courtesy of Recode, that’s not me in a supermarket):

NFL on Twitter

No buffering, no delay, and tweets right below the stream so you can engage with other viewers.

Twitter has been skewered for slow user growth and a confusing value proposition to new users. On the other hand, avid users love the platform for real-time discussion of current events.

That’s why streaming NFL games is perfect for Twitter.

Sports is the most real-time content that you can get. Sports are essentially DVR-proof and discussions and debates about games being played are already happening on Twitter.

And the NFL is the king of US sports right now, so this should bring in many NFL fans to the Twitter platform.

And I see Thursday Night Football leveraging tweets in their broadcast more often in the future.

I think live streaming sports and other content will be the future of Twitter and it’s a big step in turning the company around for the better.

What are your thoughts about being sick and the NFL on Twitter? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

What Aziz Ansari taught me about technology and human interaction

technology social media

I recently listened to a Freakonomics podcast episode titled “Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush.” Go ahead and listen to it after reading this blog post. :)

While it wasn’t as entertaining or laugh-inducing as I expected, I was surprised how enlightened I was after listening to it.

There were two points that Aziz made that stood out to me.

The first one was how Aziz dealt with his compulsion with checking his Facebook and Twitter accounts constantly. He deleted those apps from his phone and went completely cold turkey on social media.

Next was how he deals with fans who want to take pictures with him on the street. He doesn’t allow these people to take pictures with him, but instead shakes their hands, asks their names, and has a genuine conversation with them for a couple of minutes.

These seemingly unrelated things struck a chord with me.

I think it highlights how someone truly understands the values of human interaction and how technology can negatively impact how you engage with others.

I certainly appreciate technology and how it has changed and improved the way we live our lives. But I certainly believe that some of the old-school ways of doing things, like writing things down by hand, can make you more productive.

Overall, I think we live in an amazing world where we can do unbelievable things that are facilitated by technology. Hell, I’ve made it my career to help build these tools.

But like Aziz taught me, if you understand the ways technology are negatively impacting your life, you can make the changes that allow you to form stronger and deeper connections with the people around you.

What do you think about the relationship between technology and deeper connections?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

Photo courtesy of Jason Howie on Flickr

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

shrek beauty

I come across many apps and websites on a daily basis.

Some I think are beautifully designed and well thought-out. Others look like crap or don’t make any sense to me why buttons are placed where they are or why things work the way they do.

Sometimes people agree with me, other times they disagree.

That’s the wonderful thing about design, or anything subjective, really – that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What might be ugly to some is beautiful to others.

What might be a good experience to one person is subpar to another.

Another interesting thing is that there are many layers of beauty.

The interface of an app like Gmail might not look as nice as other email applications such as Yahoo Mail or But it just works much better, which is a thing of beauty.

In everyday life, beautiful people on the outside might be ugly on the inside. And vice versa. But everyone will look different to everyone, inside and out.

Everyone has their own opinion of what beauty is, and no one is right or wrong.

Beauty being in the eye of the beholder is a beautiful thing.

What are your thoughts about beauty? Do you believe it’s in the eye of the beholder? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

Image courtesy of Dreamworks Animation.

The importance of timing

Clocks and timing

I can’t stress enough how important timing is to everything, good and bad.

I recently had an experience with horrible timing.

Vicky and I recently purchased a townhouse and were preparing to move. We had a few boxes packed and were prepping to rent out the condo we currently live in.

Then the unit above us had an accident with the fire sprinkler that wound up flooding our condo. The hardwood floors were damaged and a lot of the drywall had to be cut so they could blow air to dry the insulation in the walls.

We’ve been living in a hotel for the last two weeks while our condo is being repaired. Ugh.

Perfect timing, huh?

Of course, timing can be good as well.

Back when I was thinking about leaving my job to become an entrepreneur, I knew finances would be an issue. Even though my wife would support me, I would have to garner some income to help out.

Right around when I left, I was able to immediately score two consulting contracts to help keep my finances afloat. One of those contracts came from a guy I sat next to at a conference!

Perfect timing, huh?

Timing has a major impact on technological innovations as well.

Apple was way too early with the Newton.

But Uber was timed perfectly to align with the GPS capabilities of the smartphone.

Virtual reality has been around for decades but many companies who tried to commercialize this technology over the years, couldn’t.

Only now is it reaching the mainstream with Oculus, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, and others.

Sometimes there’s not much you can do about timing, but just hope that the timing is right.

Do you have situations where timing was perfect (sarcastic and not sarcastic) for you? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Need-Want Gap: What Companies or Industries Need, They May Not Want

mind the gap

Those on the outside might see things that companies or industries need to improve and innovate. Those on the inside may not know they need these things. If they do, they may not want them.

That’s what I call the “need-want gap.”

A great example of this is portrayed in the book and movie Moneyball.

Because the Oakland Athletics couldn’t compete with other big-budget baseball teams for top players, general manager Billy Beane had to change the way players were scouted for the team to be competitive.

So Beane eschewed “gut feel” when scouting players and looked past traditional statistics like batting average, runs batted in, and stolen bases.

Instead, Beane focused more on advanced metrics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage to scout and recruit players and find diamonds in the rough. He realized that these statistics were more important to winning than the traditional stats, which were more about vanity.

This analytics-based methodology, called Sabermetrics, was absolutely scrutinized, and Beane was chastised by old-school scouts and managers.

This approach is still criticized to this day, even though the Athletics have been competitive with a tiny payroll for many years, and the Boston Red Sox won a World Series shortly after implementing the system.

Many middling teams knew they needed something stay competitive, but they didn’t want this kind of solution.

The need-want gap.

This happens many other industries as well.

Large businesses that have been around for many decades plod along with their traditional products and business models while startups disrupt them. Many deny the fact that they are being disrupted. Case in point here and here.

Ambitious job seekers may see that these companies need fresh thinking and innovation, but those jobs just aren’t available because these companies are satisfied with their position and don’t want to change.

The need-want gap.

Politics and government. Energy. Construction. Media. Music. All of these traditional industries have been slow to develop new business models as technology impacts them immensely.

If you’re seeking a career where you want to make change in these old-school industries, you might find that your services and ideas aren’t welcome.

But if you’re persistent and have a vision for the change you want to enact, keep going. Companies in these industries will come around when they have to.

If you can convince them that change is good and necessary, you can shrink that need-want gap and make your mark.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

This is day 37 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Platforms vs. your website – interesting readership stats for my “Quality vs. Quantity” post

Two days ago, I penned a blog post called “Quality vs. Quantity – which should you focus on?“, which led to some interesting viewership results.

I published it on this site, Medium, and LinkedIn, as I do with most of my blog posts.

On, the post got 88 views and 4 shares.

On Medium, the post got 70 views and 2 “Recommends” (the equivalent of a “Like”).

On LinkedIn, the post got 1,683 views, 353 Likes, 86 comments, and 82 shares.

What the hell is going on here?

First of all, it’s not surprising that has such few views. I only have 40 people on my email list. And although I shared the article to 7235 Twitter followers, we know that only a tiny percentage of people see those tweets.

Ideally, it’s best to build a big email list, have direct access to those people’s inboxes, and drive as much traffic to your site.

But nowadays, with so much noise and so many people creating massive amounts of content, that strategy just won’t work on its own.

So you need platforms and networks to help get readership.

Yet I have no idea what happened here with the two platforms to which I posted the article.

I have 1100 followers on Medium yet only garnered 70 views. I have no clue how their algorithm works and how articles are distributed.

I have over 3300 connections and followers on LinkedIn. Having more followers will obviously drive more views, and the connections I have on LinkedIn are much stronger than those on Medium.

But nearly 25x more views than on Medium? And I got more comments and shares on LinkedIn than I did total views on Medium. I don’t get it.

The problem with platforms is exactly that – it’s tough to decipher how their algorithms work, your readership numbers are completely dependent on them, and they can change at any moment.

I guess I should get back to building my email list.

This is day 20 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

The Power of Aggregation

This is day 4 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days

Aggregation is one of my favorite concepts. It saves me a ton of time and hassle in both my personal and work lives.

Why shop at multiple online stores when you can go to Amazon, who aggregates both products and other online merchants, and buy everything you want on one site?

Why search scores of websites for flights when you can go to Kayak and compare them all at once?

Why visit multiple social media sites when you can see all of your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn streams on a single interface on Hootsuite?

But aggregation isn’t always the best solution. Maybe the user interface isn’t quite right for everything that is being aggregated, or some features and functionality may have to be left out to facilitate the aggregation. Or in some cases aggregation isn’t even wanted.

For instance, Comcast and other cable networks aggregate hundreds of networks, many of which you won’t ever watch (what the hell is Here TV?) under one cable plan. And they bundle cable, internet access, and a phone landline and make you pay hundreds of dollars for it.

Cable is now being unbundled by over-the-top networks like Sling TV and HBO Go.

Another example is Craigslist. You can do anything on that site – find a roommate, sell that desk that’s collecting dust in the corner, buy a car, find a girlfriend or boyfriend. But it’s ugly as sin and the user interface you’ll have finding a job on Craigslist looks exactly like the one you’ll have finding a date.

Craigslist has been disrupted by unbundling by the likes of (dating), AirBNB (finding a place to crash), any job board (finding jobs), UrbanSitter (finding a babysitter) and many other sites.

Even with the aforementioned Hootsuite, one of my favorite tools, you can’t do some of the things you can on Facebook or Twitter. Performing Twitter hashtag and people searches really sucks on Hootsuite, so I find myself visiting to search.

Just like everything else, there are two sides to every coin. Aggregation can be a powerful thing, but it’s not always the right answer.

So if you’re using multiple products to find a solution, and it’s a big pain in the ass, you might have an opportunity on your hands to improve it. On the other hand, if you’re using an aggregation product and it just doesn’t feel quite right, you might also have an opportunity.

Guest post for ThornTech – The Week in Tech: Yahoo Screen shutters, longer tweets, and more


Check out my latest guest post on titled “The Week in Tech: Yahoo Screen shutters, longer tweets, and more.

This week we talk about the shuttering of Yahoo Screen, longer tweets, Activision’s purchase of Major League Gaming, and a round up of what’s happening at the Consumer Electronics Show.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article, sign up for my email list below, then connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.