The wait is over: Google has finally introduced a feature to help hungry searchers find out not only when a restaurant is likely to be busy, but how busy it actually is at the exact moment they’re searching and how long they would have to wait for a table.
According to news from TechCrunch, the retail feature is serving up real-time data on nearly 1 million sit-down restaurants worldwide, building on data the search engine giant already gathers from its Google Maps’ install base to fuel its Popular Times insights.
The Popular Times insights are displayed as bar graphs showing which days and times businesses tend to see the most activity so customers can plan accordingly — either to wait longer when they arrive or to choose a different time to visit.
With the new restaurant-focused feature, users now have the added option to click on a timeframe in the Popular Times chart to see live or historical data showing how busy they can expect to find their destination. Aggregated and anonymized data to power the new feature comes from users who have opted in to Google Location History.
Well, there goes that edge Yelp hoped to gain by partnering with — and later, acquiring — the platform Nowait, which lets customers reserve their place in the wait queue before arriving at the restaurant. Google is now offering the exact same thing, even at restaurants that don’t take reservations.
As VentureBeat notes, this builds upon the Reserve with Google function that was piloted last year in Los Angeles, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and which launched to the broader public last spring, enabling customers to book fitness classes anywhere in the U.S.
Last month, Google expanded the service’s scope to include other wellness and beauty bookings, partnering with scheduling providers such as SimpleSpa, TimeTrade, Genbook, Booksy and Super Salon.
Now, though, Google has stepped back into a role as conduit: Business owners, including restaurateurs, can register with those scheduling parties directly via their Google My Business account, a free service by which business owners can keep their information displayed in search results (such as contact details, addresses and retail hours of operation) up to date.
Within the Google My Business account, there’s now an option to “Sign Up For Bookings” and add a booking button to their Google listing.
“People can book an appointment in under a minute directly through your listing — and you make it easy for them to become customers,” Paul Cole, product manager, Google My Business wrote in an Oct. 23 blog post on Google’s blog, The Keyword.
What does it all mean for consumers? One-stop booking, with minimal friction between the search phase and the moment of confirmation. This new feature by Google may be able to do for local services what Amazon did for millions of products with its one-click shopping function.
For restaurants in particular, it gives their customers knowledge, and knowledge is power, and a customer with power is a customer content. Customers who reserve their place in line with Google or simply use the search engine to do their research ahead of time arrive at the restaurant knowing what to expect, which improves their experience by avoiding the unwelcome surprise of a long wait.
Google’s new feature began rolling out to Google Search last week and will reportedly offer similar insights on grocery store crowds in the near future as the feature rolls out to Google Maps and Android.