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Google Has Quietly Become a Key Player in Takeout Dining

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Google has quietly been perfecting its takeout food ordering capability. It’s now an important player in the space and that poses a real threat to DoorDash and other local restaurant aggregators that have at best a tense relationship with the dining industry. Increasingly, if you search for a restaurant on Google you will see an order online button that allows consumers to complete a takeout order, and settle up with Google Pay, without leaving the Google environment.

So far, large restaurant brands like Chilis and Jason’s Deli have begun using the service. We did a quick check of independent local restaurants. We did find a few examples of the “Order Online” button on independent local businesses vs. national chains.

This isn’t new so much as it seems to have suddenly attracted attention. According to Food Delivery News, the effort dates back to 2018, when Google partnered with several online ordering platforms to integrate them directly into GMB. The result of that effort was rolled out with minimal fanfare in 2019. The solution reportedly taps into the restaurant website’s back-end ordering system but does so without leaving Google. The system might include take-out and delivery aggregators like DoorDash or Postmates.

 

So What Does it Mean?

At the very least, this development provides a lot of incentive for local restaurants to claim and populate their GMB profiles. Of course, any agency helping local restaurants manage their GMB profiles should be all over this. And they probably are.

The more interesting question is what does this development mean for aggregators like DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, etc? Food Delivery News also reports that Google, unlike DoorDash, etc., shares customer data with the restaurants, so they can do follow-up marketing to drive repeat business. This is a huge incentive for restaurants to drive take-out orders through Google. When orders come in via DoorDash and others, the apps keep the customer data and have to resort to measured like stuffing menus and coupons in delivery bags to encourage takeout diners to come back.

Owning the customer is everything. So this, plus the aggregators’ onerous delivery fees, explains the largely hate-hate relationship that exists between the apps and restaurants. Google is subtly jumping in to present a more palatable alternative.

Giving Restaurants More Control

Still, Google has taken some heat for this move as well. Writing in LocalU, Krystal Taing reports that Google faced a backlash initially when it automatically added third-party ordering to restaurant GMB profiles. Now, businesses can choose whether to activate the button. And which third-party solution is integrarted. Google is also offering its own The Ordering.App as an option for online ordering. And it’s waiving its 1.5% per order fee until January 1, 2022.

Google’s objective here likely is about driving usage of Google Pay and of its ordering solution. This also fits its pattern of designing products that keep more traffic from leaving Google. Plus, it’s arguably improving the user experience. All consistent moves for Google. And while the delivery apps aren’t explicitly being disintermediated, there is plenty in here to make DoorDash et al nervous.

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