Google Adds Restaurants to the Book with Google Feature

This was mentioned on twitter several weeks ago and reported on in France about a month ago (h/t Sergey Alakov). I missed the memo.  Google is now supporting restaurant reservations with the Book with Google Feature in the GMB.

When initially introduced in October, it supported 12 booking programs across a range of verticals.

OpenTable was not mentioned at rollout. One wonders what other verticals and booking packages are in the works.

The  booking button is a very large call to action on both mobile AND desktop views of a restaurant.

The feature, consistent with the earlier booking services, provides Google OpenTable and restaurant specific insights into its utilization.

A restaurant, comparing Google to their OpenTable data should be able to get a solid sense of where the bulk of their transactions are occurring.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Adds Restaurants to the Book with Google Feature by

7 thoughts on “Google Adds Restaurants to the Book with Google Feature”

  1. Mike: That is all interesting. It might be “somewhat misleading”.

    Rather than pontificate on a broad scale let me relate what I’ve now heard from 2 restaurateurs. They are both in the DC region. Both are on OT and both are restaurants that generally receive higher levels of reviews across the board. They are different types of cuisines in different parts of the Metro area.

    In both cases the restaurateurs try and get a first hand sense of how their clients discovered them. They do this after the folks have been seated and do so by welcoming them to the restaurant and asking if it is the first time they have dined there. If so, they ask how the diners discovered them. If they are returning guests they show appreciation for the fact that the diners enjoyed the restaurant the first time and still ask if they recall how the diners first discovered them.

    In both cases they take reservations throughout the week. In both cases they can invariably accommodate walk ins on virtually all week days but generally are booked via reservations for weekends. Reservations come via OT, one other source and by the phone. They do know how many book off the OT opportunity on the restaurant web page or via OT’s site. It makes a difference. I think OT still charges $1/head for bookings off its site but only $0.25/head if it is off the restaurant’s site.

    Both are priced as moderate to more expensive, but not overwhelmingly expensive. Unless the visitors drink a large amount of wine or “pig out” or drink like crazy…that means that the $1/head cost is not insignificant. The restaurateurs are very aware of that cost.

    In both cases the restaurateurs have the following feel for customers:

    The do read reviews. They most often hear Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor among the largest and national review sites. At this point they can’t say that any one of those sites dominate.

    They hear Word of Mouth and References and Referrals from friends and relatives. Both restaurateurs mentioned that some regulars or fans DO in fact refer a healthy number of new customers.
    Its good to have fans.

    In the DC area these operators like many get a lot of hotel and an increasing volume of people/visitors who are at hotels and AirBnB. Visitors are important. The DC region is one of the top 3,4, or five cities for total hotel rooms. That is in the city and suburbs. Lots of visitors and hotel visitors are infinitely likelier to dine out more often than residents. Hotels make a big difference!!! Can’t overstate that. In some cases both of these restaurants, which are NOT in heavily hoteled areas have their restaurants named and recommended on one part of a hotel web site. Maybe there are personnel inside the hotels that verbally make recommendations. I wouldn’t know. The restaurateurs were sort of oblivious to the hotel info that drove customers to there dining spots.

    Mainly “name” restaurants in the DC region are undoubtedly impacted by local reviewers/”experts”. This has been true for decades. The major source is the major newspaper, the Washington Post. There are other important media sources and then a large volume of pieces on the web that represent food bloggers and commentators. It is a healthy topic in the Urban world. NYC is similarly impacted by the major news source, in that case the NYTimes food reviewers. I suspect that is true in many cities. In many cities you will find restaurateurs that live and die with the reviews from the local experts.

    Its been true for decades. In the last 2 weeks I was discussing some of these issues with a restaurateur I know. Web traffic is completely flat over months. He had one serious dip in the last month with a 25% drop in volume. What happened. He doesn’t have a feel for it. Web traffic is utterly flat. I monitor it.

    What he also referenced that over a decade ago, shortly after he opened and got acclaim, the WashPo reviewer wrote a wondrous review. Business doubled thereafter. From that point he garnered other great reviews and does so to this day. Doing a great job that generates both “expert” and great consumer reviews is critical to maintaining his volume.

    I know, Mike. Long piece. The point is that a review of volume from OT is not necessarily the real source of where the volume comes from….but it does quantify the volume that originates via OT or via OT or another source via the KP. But it is only part of the story.

    In my case, as both SEO/analyst, and operator I more and more only rely on web data to support the hardest most defining data: Lead volume and sales.

    Lead volume and hard sales are the meat of our making revenues. Web data does not feed us or pay the rent, salaries and bonuses.

    I caution users that over rely on web data.

  2. @dave
    I have not looked at OpenTable stats but I figure that being able to triangulate sources of reservation transactions as valuable data.

    In some industries 70% of the low funnel KPIs are coming from google. Does that happen with restaurants? I don’t know. But this should allow the owner of the restaurant to get a measure of relative volume that Google is contributing.

    End all be all? No but it should be a useful piece of information to understand where users are making this decision.

    I would be curious to know if Opentable charges the restaurant the higher dollar amount for a google booked table.

  3. Triangulate is a fancy word, Mike. Not sure of what you mean with regard to this situation.

    I hadn’t seen this presentation until just recently and made several attempts to reserve a table at various restaurants. Some use OT, some don’t. CURRENTLY, only those that are using OT get the BIG ACTION button that leads to a reservation. (btw: this first extensive comparison was done on a desktop–I’ll try mobile later)

    The big action blue button dominates the KP. Underneath it there remain a list of reservation sites. They are smaller and less obvious. I am sure the call to action button due to size and prominence will dominate.

    If one does make a reservation via the call to action button, either it automatically fills in your gmail account. If you aren’t signed in it requires a gmail account.

    If you use the reservation links below one doesn’t need a gmail account.

    If you are at the restaurant in search you have the option of getting info from the KP or going to the site. We all know that searches to some level are abandoning the web site. Google knows this information and only google knows this. Its a form of monopolization of information.

    I doubt, in fact I’m sure most users of OT don’t know that if you use OT on the restaurant’s website they only charge the restaurant $0.25/head. If you book from OT the charge is $1.00/head.

    People who use OT know they are eligible for “OT points”. Accumulate enough, (and its popular and well used) and you get an OT “check” which is usable at any restaurant that uses OT. These can be worth good money.

    If you book off of the Big Google Action button, you are NOT eligible for OT points. It clearly doesn’t show on the reservation page. I further went to OT’s TOS and then the bonus points TOS. They were updated as of 3/31/18. Booking through google is NOT included in OT points/dollars. The only way you get them is through the OT site or an OT app.

    Those that relish OT points/dollars might be turned off by this. I know its used a lot, if only because I keep hearing from restaurateurs that they receive these all the time as a “discount coupon” payment off of the price of a meal.

    So if you are looking at booking a restaurant via google search and arriving at the restaurant via a name search you can:

    A. Book through the Big Action button, which only applies to OT (no OT $$)
    B. Book off the reservation options in the KP that takes you to the reservation page for that restaurant on the reservation services website. (IF you use OT and like OT $$ they are available.
    C. Go to the restaurant site and book via whatever methods they carry on the site or call them. Again, I doubt most consumers are terribly conscious or aware of how much reservation services charge or how it affects the restaurants.

    Back to the term triangulation While I’m not sure what you intended it to mean, I see the actual implementation of this as a way to enable Google to get its piece of the reservation pie. Its making money off this.

    If booking off the KP and off the existing reservation links, especially using OT, enables a consumer to get OT reward $$, but booking off the BIG ACTION Google KP button doesn’t provide for OT reward $$, one can only assume Google is taking some of the cash.

    Of course neither Google nor OT have made public announcements about this!!!!

    I suspect this is a way for Google to get into the transaction and make some money!!!!

    Aw hell. They are a virtual unregulated monopoly. Its currently their right . wink wink.

    As to how reservation systems, and specifically OT are most often used, and where and how…a new topic in the discussion.

    I don’t know, but here is where I imagine it generates an enormous volume of activity–maybe a majority.

    OT is an exceptionally functional and useful app if one lives in an urban area and one dines out a lot, either single, most likely as a pair of people and possibly quite frequently when arranging for dining and reservations with others.

    Go directly to OT. Choose your date. Choose your neighborhood or cuisine, or survey everything in the market. Find ALL the OT options with available seats on that night.

    If you are sharing info with the other couple, contact them and list the choices and hours available for that evening. Make a choice and book it at OT. If you are free to make the choice on your own, make a choice and book the table for that evening.

    It is the absolute easiest way to make a reservation in Washington DC. When I looked a week out for Saturday April 21 there were over 350 restaurants available for booking at most time slots. Many are excellent, but not all. How many people do you know that might have dined at 350 different restaurants of name in a city in the last year or two??? Not many I assume.

    Still a growing number of extremely popular restaurants which book all the time are leaving OT. It is expensive. Its apparent in the city and apparent in the suburbs.

    But clearly from experience direct visits to the OT app or its website is a highly functional and effective option. On top of that directly booking off of OT gets you OT rewards. Customers like that. On top of normal points there are STILL OT bonus points for your choices. 1000 bonus points per booking quickly turn into real discount money. It can be used on OT or used for Amazon. Good deal. People love points.

    Back to the google booking button.

    All this looks to me is as a way for google to make money off of a big button.

    Again, they are a monopoly and in the current environment they are free to dig into everyone’s pockets unhindered.

  4. Mike: I was doing research on this and gave a long winding response above.

    To be more to the point:

    I strongly suspect the Big Button earns Google money off reservations. It seems pretty clear. A reservation off the button DOES NOT get an OT customer bonus points worth real money. Conversely if you reserve directly off the OT page OR you use the link lower down on the KP and go to the OT page and make a reservation one does get OT bonus points (worth money).

    Logic suggests google has monetized the KP. They haven’t announced it.

    On triangulation: The only way I can now interpret that is if someone makes an appt off the big button there are now 3 parties that share in the transaction: The restaurant, OT, and now, Google. No longer 2 parties–now 3.

    About attribution: I speak to a lot of restaurateurs. Some moan and groan about OT. Its expensive. Because its so expensive there a growing volume of competitors.

    There is attrition off of OT. Restaurateurs leave. For some its costly and they return. For others they are so popular they leave and it doesn’t have an adverse affect. Bully for them. They have saved a not insignificant amount of money in a low margin business.

    The restaurateurs who spend time looking at this google box and realize they are paying google, will NOT be happy with this information. One only has to look at it and realize, google is taking traffic from their websites, possibly rerouting the reservations into a more expensive alternative.

    Is google really the source of the res, or not??? If one puts all value on web metrics, that is all one comes up with if the info comes via google. If they get to know the customers they will often learn that WOM was what drove the search into their name. Restaurateurs that speak with their customers know this too well.

    Mike: You know we run bartending schools. They enable and allow us to speak with students while in class and ask more questions. If all we did was rely on web metrics we would assume google generated over 90% of all business.

    Its not that way. Depending on the location and how well they are known, the WOM/direct referral source of sales peaks at around or over 30%. The lead or customer might find us on google, but once we speak to them we learn of other sources–primarily WOM.

    We market accordingly. We push WOM/referrals. That also works, and the good will that generates WOM is what works best.

    So if all I did, or all the restaurateurs did was read web metrics they may get a distorted view of what works or not.

    These days I first look at hard numbers then I look at the web metrics. Some of the restaurateurs I know do the same.

  5. Obviously anyone who looks at just digital metrics only sees digital metrics. From the case study I did with Barbara 58% of new customers came from digital (90% of those from Google), 33% was word of mouth and the balance via other media.

    So we are in agreement there.

    An interesting comment that she made to me was that in speaking to millenials she learned that even after asking for and receiving a word of mouth recommendation they would still go and read reviews. So even WOM is muddy these days.

    The Book with Google program was free for the first 12 booking companies that signed up. To get into the program required that they have roughly 10,000 businesses using their tool.

    I have no idea whether the same arrangement was extended to OT but I believe so. Google has plenty of time to monetize transactions AFTER they have sucked all of the oxygen from the room.

  6. And here comes some agreement!!!!!

    Our efforts to assess/measure how we gained business now reflect thousands of these interviews.

    When people buy the services as a result of a trusted referral (say a family member or very close friend) they don’t rely on anything else.

    When people find us via WOM they do turn to other sources; reviews being one of the major places they go to.

    I don’t “muddy” that aspect of the analysis. I count the source as WOM and we have another level of analysis: Call it attributes of the SMB. Reviews often are the attribute that helps them decide to buy.

    Finding us is one thing: Deciding to buy with us is something else.

    I have found the same thing you found with Barbara Oliver.

  7. Mike,
    Your blog articles are so helpful (although sometimes I have to read through them several times to catch it all). I actually like the features like the ability to schedule a table at a restuarant. What they are doing is making it easier for the consumer which in the long run equates more for customers for the business. I wonder what this will do to Yelp (I am hoping it will squeeze them).

    My concern is that how much is too much? It seems like sensory overload on some pages, which as a consumer is distracting.

    As a business owner, these changes are nearly impossible to keep up on.

    Thank you for passing your knowledge our way.

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