- Google is launching a new feature that lets merchants specify their preferred ordering method when customers find a restaurant through Google Maps.
- The update comes as restaurants have struggled with processing fees from popular third-party delivery services like Grubhub as they rely heavily on takeout during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Restaurants will be able to specify their preferred ordering method beginning this summer.
- Google is also launching other new features, like the ability to book online services directly through Google.
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Restaurants now have a new way to encourage customers to order from them directly versus turning to an app like Grubhub or Uber Eats as eateries across the country shift primarily to takeout because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Restaurants will soon be able to communicate their preferred ordering method to customers through Google, the search giant announced on Wednesday. When tapping a link to order food from a restaurant's Google business profile — the listing that appears on Google Maps and Search — customers will be able to see which platform the restaurant prefers.
That means restaurants will be able to explicitly encourage customers discovering restaurants through Google Maps to order from their own website versus a third-party app.
The announcement comes as restaurants are rallying against the use of delivery services like Grubhub and Seamless, arguing that the processing fees that come with using a third-party service can make it difficult for restaurants to benefit from such orders. Some restaurants, like Pitas and Sticks in Brooklyn, even include a note in orders placed through Grubhub asking customers to order directly from the eatery instead, according to NBC News.
Grubhub also came under fire in April over its "Supper for Support" promotion, which offered discounts to promote ordering in but required restaurants to pay the cost of the discount. Grubhub had since said that "there was some initial confusion" about the promotion, adding that it's made changes that include putting $30 million toward participating restaurants to stimulate food sales.
"It's cost prohibitive because these fees are pretty astronomical and the restaurants really aren't generating the profit they need from that," Jason Kaplan, CEO of restaurant and hospitality consulting firm JK Consulting, said to Business Insider in a previous interview.
The ability for merchants to specify their preferred online ordering partner will be coming this summer, Google says.
Google is also launching a few additional features geared toward helping people interact with businesses remotely. The search giant will now allow virtual kitchens, which are restaurants that do not have a physical location but offer food deliveries, to verify their businesses on Google.
It's also going to start allowing users to book virtual classes and appointments directly through Google by expanding its Reserve With Google platform, much like the way it currently offers the ability to book a table at a restaurant or purchase tickets to a physical event. Businesses can also now add links to their Google profile for customers to make donations or purchase gift cards.
The new features are designed to make it easier for small local businesses to reach consumers at a time when restaurants and stores are adjusting the way they operate to cope with COVID-19-related restrictions.
But they also serve as another reminder that Google Maps has become far more than just a navigation app for getting from point A to B, even as concern has grown in recent years about the reach and influence of large tech firms like Google.
Rather, Google has been turning Maps into a platform for doing everything from finding curated guides to local points of interest to booking a restaurant reservation. Google even redesigned its Maps app earlier this year to further emphasize that Maps is designed for more than just getting directions.
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