How to Develop an app Like Yelp?


Do you trust online reviews about restaurants and services? If so, you belong to 90% of  customers who base their choice on online reviews and personal recommendations.

Since people like sharing their experience with businesses, online directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Open Table, and Foursquare have become extremely popular. Such apps help tourists to find specific places. From the business point of view, apps like Yelp have numerous means of monetization. 

If you consider developing an app like Yelp, continue reading. Below we will describe how Yelp works, its main competitors, Yelp monetization model, the feature list, and the cost for the development.

What is Yelp

Image source: Iclarified

Launched in 2004, currently, the Yelp application has over 142 million users. The app helps users to find local businesses among various business categories like the pizzeria, hotel, or shop on the basis of other users' reviews and ratings.

How does Yelp work?

Yelp uses geolocation to show the list of businesses nearby. Users can filter the search results or define a specific business category as markets, shops, and cafes. Then, the app allows the sorting of the search results by distance, price, and rating. 

After users choose the right place, Yelp shows more detailed information about the business. Such information includes the business address, phone number, working hours, visitors’ reviews, etc. The app users can see the route to the chosen place on their smartphones. Visitors can leave their reviews and comments about the business if they are registered in the app.

Now, let's get down to serious business and learn about Yelp monetization strategies.  If you decided to build an app like Yelp, you can apply the same business model and make your app profitable.

How do apps like Yelp make money?

There are several strategies of Yelp monetization, including  advertising, transaction fees, and other services, explained below.


Image source: Fitsmallbusiness

The app provides businesses with both free and paid advertising options to promote their products and services on both the Yelp website and the app. The advertisement option includes:

Branded profile. Companies pay for a branded profile with premium features such as adding custom images and videos to make their profiles more personalized. Companies can receive a CTA button in their Yelp profiles  which transfer customers to their websites. 

Enhanced profile. With this feature, businesses can prevent ads by other companies from appearing on their business pages.

Yelp Verified License. To build trust among customers, companies buy the Yelp verification license that appears on their business pages.

Search and other advertisements. Companies listed in Yelp pay the platform to promote their profiles in the app search. The app charges a cost-per-click fee for every user who clicked on the ad.

Transaction revenue

The transaction fee is another Yelp monetization strategy. The app provides businesses with different features and tools for better interactions with their customers, including:

Orders. Yelp charges a commission on every product ordered or bought via the application.

Yelp Deals. The platform charges service fees for every product and service promoted on the platform through discounted deals. If the customer uses the deal, the app charges businesses additional fees.

Gift certificates. When the business sells a gift certificate, and a customer buys it, the app charges a transaction fee depending on the gift total.

Other services

The app provides businesses with additional paid services on a monthly subscription basis that include:

Yelp Reservation. This feature is popular among restaurants and cafes. It allows users to make an online reservation via Yelp.

Yelp Waitlist. With this feature, users can join the waitlist and check their wait times.

Yelp Wi-Fi Marketing. This paid Yelp service allows businesses to advertise on the Wifi login page. Also, companies could receive valuable insights into customers' ranging, including social media and direct contact.

Read also the article about app monetization.

Key features of a Yelp-like app

To develop a successful app like Yelp, we recommend clients to launch the app with basic features, or an MPV. With this approach, you can collect feedback from your users and decide what functionality you will implement in the next stage. Such an approach is also  budget-saving since not all startups are ready to pay for the development of a complicated app with numerous features. 

Below we describe what  basic Yelp features you will need to launch your app as MVP. This section also includes the description of more advanced features you can add to your app in the second development stage. 

MVP Yelp features

Newsfeed. Being a social media platform, Yelp has  news feeds where users can check a chronological list of previous activities, news, and notifications.

Location-based search. Geolocation-based search allows users to find the nearest businesses and restaurants using the geolocation on their mobile devices.

User profile. The user profile includes all user reviews, photos, as well as places, visited by the user's friends and a list of favorite places.


Reviews and rating.

Image source: Macrumors

The reviews and rating feature allows users to add reviews and rate businesses they have visited.

Filter. The app's users should have the ability to filter  search results by at least basic parameters like Price, Delivery, Offering a Deal, and Distance. 

Advanced Yelp features

However, to build a successful and multipurpose Yelp application, you need to implement the following feature list:

Social sign-in. This feature makes the log-in process more user-friendly. Users can use their Facebook profiles instead of the email address to register to the app.

Reservation. This handy feature allows users to reserve a table in a specific restaurant using your app.


Media files. This function allows users uploading photos and short videos of businesses and places to show other users how they look.

Purchases. With this feature, the app users may pay for goods or services using the app payment gateway.

Messenger. Using messenger, app users can chat with a business and solve issues with technical support. To make your messenger popular and convenient, it should enable sending photos and videos to other users and mark messages with delivered and sent status. 

Advanced filters. Your Yelp app clone should filter the search result on parameters like:

  • Takes Reservations
  • Accepts Credit Cards
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Good for Kids
  • Good for Groups
  • Take Out
  • Wheelchair Accessibility
  • Accepts Insurance
  • Has TV
  • Dogs Allowed
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Paid Wi-Fi
  • Full Bar
  • Beer and Wine Only
  • Happy Hour

Admin panel

The admin panel is an essential part of your future project. The admin panel should be integrated with the content management system (CMS) that allows for the editing of information, managing services, blocking or deleting users, and so on.

Yelp Reputation System

The reputation system is the main competitive advantage of Yelp. With its help, the app's users can receive a clear picture of businesses and services.

For business, it is tough to get the highest score in-app rating. First of all, customers tend to share negative experiences more frequent than positive ones. Secondly, it is all about  Yelp`s unique review filters.

Darnell Holloway, Director of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, explained that Yelp applies many factors as general user`s activity, quality, and reliability of the review.

Reviews should include new information, be helpful, and provide Yelp with trends that form a unique customer experience. Also, Yelp checks the user information such as age, accommodation city, number of friends, and other  reviews left.

Recently, the app changed its review algorithm to reduce the number of fake reviews and show a more precise picture to its users. Now, Yelp identifies “dead accounts” and removes  reviews left by such users. If the company has too many positive reviews, the new algorithm demotes them and shows a combination of negative and positive reviews. This way, the app is trying to be more reliable and helpful.

After revealing the main Yelp app clone components, let us see the main Yelp competitors.

Main Yelp competitors

You can also research main Yelp competitors, how review websites work and their business models.



Using TripAdvisor, tourists find local restaurants and hotels. Unlike Yelp, the TripAdvisor app is popular among tourists who are temporarily visiting the area and need advice from other visitors. TripAdvisor includes a restaurant section and gives a list of top restaurants on the basis of visitor reviews.

Business model

TripAdvisor has several monetization strategies. With the advertising business model, the app charges hotels and online travel agencies a cost per click cost when they appear in the search result, and the visitor clicks on their profile. 

With the agency business model, TripAdvisor charges a commission from every successful direct booking.  

Open Table

Image source: Phapps

This app allows users to explore, book, and manage restaurant reservations. Besides, users can find restaurants using geolocation, view the menu, photos, and reviews of other visitors. To leave a review about a restaurant, or to rate it, users should book a table using the app.

Business model

Being a mediator between the restaurants and guests, OpenTable provides businesses with a handy tool for online reservations. To list a restaurant in this app, you need to pay $199 monthly subscription fee and $1.00 service fee per each guest who makes a reservation via the app.


Image source: Travelzoo

This search-and-discover app provides users with personalized recommendations of places nearby using the geolocation, browsing the history, and previous check-ins. Foursquare users can leave a review and rate the place they have visited via the app.

Business model

The company uses a Cost-Per-Action business model. Let us tell you what it means. There are a lot of organizations listed in this app. Foursquare allows them to run ads via the app. If the user clicks on such and such advertisement, or visits a physical location within 72 hours, the app charges a cost-per-action fee.

How much does it cost to create a Yelp-like app

So, how much does it cost to develop an app like Yelp? Well, it depends on the number of features you want to implement, the degree of design customization, and what development team you choose. 

To give you a clear idea of the app development process, we share the approximate estimation in hours and US dollars below.


Estimation in hours

Estimation in  US dollars

Social sign in

30–40 hours


Push Notifications

80–100 hours



roughly 70–100 hours

up to $2500+

Uploading pictures and videos

80–160 hours



Reviews and Rating

80–160 hours


Filter Integration

300+ hours


Filter by category

40–60 hours




200–250 hours


User profile

300–340 hours



In-app purchases

120–160 hours


So, in order to make an app like Yelp, expect to pay from $90,000 to $170,000. Consider that the cost of the development depends hugely on the location of your IT team. 

While the U.S. and Western European developers charge from $50 to $250 per hour,  developers from Eastern Europe will cost you from $30 to $150, depending on their experience.  

The App Solutions experience

Recently, we launched the Quepro application, a social platform that connects people with local specialists. Despite the tight deadlines, we managed to launch the app MVP within three months, and we are proud of the result.

For this project, we implemented a geo-location feature, so the app is enhancing users that are located within a  distance of 100 meters to 100 miles.

  •         The app messenger allows people to receive advice from professionals in real time.
  •         Users can also use the app in any city in the world by changing the location on the map.
  •         The application was developed both for iPhone and Android within compliance with all UX regulations and design guidelines required for each type of device.

For this project, we used the following tech stack: Java Android SDK, Jackson, Gson, Google map, Picasso, Volley, and Google Analytics.

For the Admin Panel on the back-end, we used: PHP, MySQL, HTML5, CSS3, Jquery, Nginx.


People like to share their experience as well as visit new places. For this reason, online directories, like Yelp, will remain popular in the near future. By applying many monetization models, Yelp receives significant profit from its users. 

That is why you should consider  making an app like Yelp for your startup. And, if you are looking for a development team to implement the project, we are here to help.




Valery Filipets


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