Internet search giant Google is set to add restaurant wait times to its search engine results and its Google Maps service, the company said Wednesday.
“Rolling out soon, wait times on Google Search (and coming soon to Maps) show you the estimated wait at your favorite restaurants,” a Google software engineer wrote in a blog post on the company’s website. “Now you can decide whether that cronut is really worth an hour wait or plan ahead to get your fix at a time when you can avoid a wait entirely.”
The additional Google information expands on what the company has offered in other retail sectors, said Jill McFarland, founder of Kansas City, Kan.-based Stellar Digital Marketing, which helps multi-unit brands manage local listings and respond to reviews.
“Google has had this same type of concept for other types of retail for a while,” McFarland said in an interview Thursday. “Ikea is what pops into my mind, because I hate going to Ikea when it’s crowded. When I look on Google for Ikea, I can see the lower traffic times to go there. So it’s great for the end user.”
Google, a unit of Mountain View, Calif.-based Alphabet Inc., said the wait times will be offered for nearly a million sit-down restaurants globally, similar to what it offers now for locations like museums and groceries.
“Just search for the restaurant on Google, open the business listing and scroll down to the Popular Times section,” Google said. “There you’ll see the estimated wait time at that very moment. And by tapping on any of the hour bars, you’ll see the estimated wait for that time period. You can even scroll left and right to see a summary of each day’s wait times below the hour bars — so you can plan ahead to beat the crowds.”
Google said the time estimates are based on anonymous historical data it has gathered, similar to how it computes the existing “Popular Times” and “Visit Duration” features.
McFarland said individual restaurants and multi-unit brands should keep an eye on the accuracy of the crowd-sourced data.
“With anything like this, it’s crowd-sourced information or data that Google’s aggregating from its users,” she explained. “Bigger brands have a harder time with that level of transparency where they are not in control of their message. Just like ratings and reviews, Google for years has been dismissive about how critical those are to the business.
When the wait times display rolls out, restaurants will need to monitor it and reach out to Google if they see problems, McFarland said.
“It depends on the level of relationship they have with Google,” she said. “For some brands that have a paying relationship with Google, the level of what they are paying can make a difference about whether than can get someone to pick up the phone and help them out.”
She advised brands to claim their business listing with Google, so that Google will recognize the business owner if they need to update any information.
“If your pages aren’t cleaned, it might not recognize you as trustworthy and it will default what it believes is true on activity it is seeing,” McFarland said.
Perhaps the biggest impact will be in the growing area of voice searches, such as with Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa devices, she warned.
“These wait times impact voice search,” McFarland said. “If you ask Siri or Alexa — and these technologies are now in cars and other places — it relies on the local listings. It’s coming from crowd-sourced data. In the future, if you were to voice search for a restaurant that doesn’t have a wait, it will rely on the crowd-sourced data to give you an answer.”
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