- Google Maps is testing a new feature that shows users images of the most popular meals at a restaurant, according to a report by 9to5 Google.
- The images are crowdsourced from images and texts that diners snap when visiting the restaurant. Users can suggest edits if they see a discrepancy between the photo and the actual meal.
- The app already showcases nearby restaurants and their menu offerings.
The addition of photos uploaded by reviewers makes Google Maps' restaurant review offerings more competitive against Yelp, but could have a mixed impact on restaurants. Companies can't control what users post, including whether the photo is appetizing or whether the customer referred to the dish by the correct name.
Google Maps' new photo aggregation service may be a way to resolve some of the confusion that comes with ad hoc online restaurant reviews. It also levels the playing field for restaurant marketing. Retailers that can’t afford expensive, targeted marketing campaigns will have a much better chance at competing with other restaurants based on crowdsourced images and reviews.
Last year, Google added star ratings for bars and restaurants to its map feature and was reportedly acquiring reviews faster than its competitors, including Yelp, TripAdvisor and others. A downside that some were quick to point out is that Google is less judicious in the reviews that it aggregates compared to Yelp, which takes time to weed out fake reviews. This could penalize some restaurants unfairly while inadvertently elevating an unworthy restaurant.
Yelp is also fast at work rolling out new features, most recently announcing that it will start collecting information on restaurants’ environmental footprints. Consumers can now report whether eateries have eco-friendly measures in place, such as no plastic straws, no plastic utensils, no plastic bags, reusable cup discounts and compostable containers. The information will be available to users within roughly one year.
Late last year, TripAdvisor partnered with DoorDash to offer a direct order link in its app in 1,800 North American cities. The partnership integrates online ordering to more than 24,000 restaurant listings on the travel site that previously lacked ordering links. It's unclear where Google will stand if it takes this feature beyond testing, but further innovations are likely to come out of the review space as it grows more competitive and crucial to restaurant success.