They came. They saw. They sampled.
And when they were done, the nearly 100 members of the Yelp Elite Squad gave Pittsburgh International Airport’s new local dining scene a hearty five stars.
“The airport vendors pulled out the red carpet for us at the Yelp’s Passport to PIT event yesterday! The staff was so friendly and welcoming! It was a fabulous culinary experience!,” posted one Elite user in attendance for Saturday’s event.
And in case you’re wondering, an “Elite” is someone who is hand-selected based on the quality and frequency of their Yelp reviews.
Yelp, a social networking site that offers crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses, holds monthly events for Elite users.
Saturday’s event featured a scavenger hunt throughout the Airside Terminal, sampling food and drinks from 13 of the airport’s local concessions. Upon arrival, Yelp Elites received passports to be stamped at each location, with stops including Steel Cactus, Gaby et Jules, Penn Brewery and Local Craft.
“The purpose of these events is to educate the local community on what business owners are doing and making connections,” said Yelp Pittsburgh’s Community Director Rachel Carson.
Carson decided to hold an Elite event at the airport after she noticed a certain chocolate chip cookie.
“The first time I saw a Nancy B’s chocolate chip cookie I got so excited,” she said. “They [the airport] are carrying this local vendor that is one of the best cookies I’ve ever had.”
Then she noticed the macarons from Gaby et Jules.
“They’ve got it going on – because they know that Pittsburghers love Pittsburgh.”
For the Elites, the events are a fun and exclusive way to explore a local restaurant or business as well as a chance to meet new people.
“You want to make sure you are always checking in and adding photos and writing reviews,” said Ashley Weaver, 28, of Mt. Lebanon.
Jeff Houser, 28, of Downtown Pittsburgh, said having more local options at PIT is a benefit for travelers.
“I think it’s a good idea, because it gives travelers, people who are here for the first time or just passing through, a taste of the city without even having to go to the city.”
The concessionaires had a good time, too, saying feedback from the event was positive.
“Everybody’s enjoying the entire experience, not just stopping here,” said Penn Brewery employee Laura Foster on Saturday. “They are totally enjoying the entire day. I think it’s an overall hit for the airport.”
CEO Christina Cassotis said Saturday’s event is just the start of a more local focus at Pittsburgh International that will expand as the airport embarks on its 1.1 billion dollar Terminal Modernization Program.
“We all have a similar mission – we are trying to connect people with local opportunities,” said Cassotis. “There’s more coming. We are working really hard to make sure that people see Pittsburgh at the airport.”
And for those traveling soon, the Yelp Elites have a simple message.
“Don’t be late to the airport because there’s so many exciting things happening here,” Carlson said. “Come early because there are so many things here to take advantage of. Come early and relax.”
Full reviews of the event from the Yelp Elites themselves can be found on Yelp.