New Yelp Data Tool Might Help Us Find The Next Big Food Craze

Yelp Trends mines 57 million reviews for insight.

Now that cronut mania is fizzling out, foodies have been on the hunt for the next buzzy pastry craze. According to Yelp's newly announced data tool that tracks keyword usage over time, we may have already found our answer:

It's the donut.

Today, the San Francisco-based restaurant ratings company revealed a new platform that mines its 57 million reviews to unearth trends over a period of time and visualize them in a graph. It is called Yelp Trends.

"Basically, we're giving people a way to find trends throughout all of those reviews," Eric Singley, Yelp VP of Mobile and Consumer Products tells Fast Company. "You search for cupcakes, and you can see how people have been talking about cupcakes over time."

Think Google's Ngram Viewer, which can show us when certain words have jumped the shark, but instead of tracing a word or phrase's usage rate throughout centuries of literature, you can track the meteoric rise of kale, or ramen. For foodies, that sort of data visualization might help settle a few long-running arguments, like which city was responsible for the food truck boom: New York or Los Angeles?

The potential applications of Yelp Trends transcend food. Since the tool combs Yelp for keywords, it can trace things like popular slang words, which can be useful for tracing pop culture over time. "The first time we saw Yolo was in 2012," says Singley. "And now Yolo is trending downward."

Or perhaps you want to know more about a popular hairstyle? Here's how the terms "Brazilian blowout" and "ombre" contrast from 2009 to 2014:

"Jared Leto made the ombre famous when he won the Academy Award with his fabulous hair," laughs Singley.

You can give Yelp Trends a try over here.

[Image: Flickr user Davis Staedtler]

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