Are you Hot or Not?

So in preparation for the new website I’m working on for TSJ, I’ve been asked to come up with a list of the four “Hot & Happening” places for Dining, Nightlife, Arts & Culture, Shopping, etc. They’ll ideally rotate every 30 days or so.

My first thought was that I needed to come up with a system to rank places. While I could go to Yelp and pick out the four highest rated places, I needed to experience each one for myself, as well as I need to see how the owners or managers interaction with us would be.

I start with pulling a list of the ten top places in each category from Yelp and as long as they have over 50 reviews. Anything under 50 makes me leery, though if it’s a new place, like six months old I’ll consider it. I then visit each one of these places as a patron, and I don’t mention who I am or what I am doing. I then go back about a week later on a different day and mention that I am, what I am doing and if I could meet with the manager or owner. It’s relevant to note that my reception is usually different once people know that I’m more than just a typical visitor.

I find the first time it’s very beneficial to ask other patrons or even the venues staff “so what’s been really popular downtown lately, it’s been a while since I’ve visited?” this question will give a lot of useful insight the first anonymous visit, though the second visit when I introduce myself will only give me a rundown of the current places activities and events. So it’s useless to ask this any other time, but on the first visit before you introduce yourself.

I then talk to the owner/manager and discuss cross promotion opportunities with them, as a non-profit everything we do is a free service, so I’m not selling anything to them, simply just offering an exchange of promoting them on our site in exchange for a link back to us or a onetime shout out on their social media feed. This part here is a bit interesting because it wouldn’t actually matter if these companies wanted nothing to do with us as it is TSJ’s job to promote the city of San Jose and therefore, you’re a sure in, even if you don’t want to work with us, we’ll list your business on our website and repost your events on our social media pages.

Now it’s time to pick the places for Hot & Happening…If a place gets three check marks I put them in the slot. If I have more than four places then I put which one I liked more in and save the other one for next month’s list. So how do my check marks work?

Check Mark 1: You have an average of 3.5+ Stars on Yelp. I find this to be very generous.

Check Mark 2: When I visited your venue the first time anonymously patrons were telling me they come here often or like the place rather than telling me “eh, it’s ok, it’s close by” or “I just came in and I don’t know if I’d come back” or, and I have heard this, “I don’t know why I come here, I hate this place, my friends make me go” – note: this goes the same for how the staff at the venue like or dislike the place too.

Check Mark 3: Did the manager/owner blow me off, not follow up or did he call me back, meet with me and listen to what I had to offer him?

Check Mark 4: Personal and Professional Bias. Ultimately the decision is mine alone to list a place on our website, and while I consider myself fair, if we have a business owner who is good friends with our CEO, or my boss, or even myself, I’ll probably nudge them in first before anyone else, provided they pass the first two Check Marks. At the same time, if a business has been bashing our company or has had an altercation with an employee, they may get bumped down, though honestly this hasn’t happened with anyone who has passed the Yelp and Visit marks.

So what now? We’re still a few months away, so all the ones I picked for this Hot & Happening may change shortly, but it at least gives me a good list to keep an eye on as I funnel in new or additional places to check out as we get closer to launch.

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