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Google Is Serving up Menus in Search Results

March 17, 2014

Google is serving up something new in your search results…menus! After a brief period of testing, Google rolled out, for lack of a catchier name, “menu cards,” as OneBox-style answers at the top of the search results page.

To give you a taste (okay, no more restaurant puns, I promise), search for a restaurant’s name along with the word “menu” in the query. There you’ll see the restaurant’s menu “At a Glance” followed by other courses (Appetizers, Soups, etc.) in separate tabs. If this isn’t really what you were looking for, Google gives you the option to bypass the menu and see the restaurant’s “traditional” listings.

It looks nice. It makes logical sense. If someone is searching for a menu, just show a menu. But, the big question is…where is Google getting the information?

A Google spokesperson did reach out to Search Engine Land with this statement: “We get all of our menu data from a partner, similarly to how we show other types of answers, like weather. As our data comes from a 3rd party provider, we cannot add menus for individual restaurants directly…” With Google confirming that they are not actively scraping restaurant websites for menu information, the accuracy of their data has to be taken into consideration. Google is smart, but it isn’t perfect (Google Buzz anyone?). Any menu updates (new dishes added, price increases, seasonal item changes) made on a restaurant’s website might not make their way onto the “menu card.” With the OneBox taking up the majority of the search results page, restaurant patrons will likely default to the “menu card” and not see the updated menu on the restaurant’s website. On the other hand, if the information is accurate, the “menu card” is one nice big ad for the restaurant and showcases its menu items.

Despite any speculation and concern that may arise (just see my earlier paragraphs), this newest addition is actually very much in line with the update made to Google’s algorithm in late 2013, “Hummingbird.” It is a logical next step. Hummingbird, meaning fast and precise, focused on providing results that complimented conversational speech. The goal is that the results you see suit the intent of your entire query, rather than just match words in your query. Basically, Hummingbird gives you what you are asking for, not what you are searching for.

As is the case with the “menu card,” Google looks to display exactly what you want to see – a restaurant’s menu, fast and precisely. It also conveniently bypasses your need to visit a secondary website. Instead, you begin and end your Internet voyage without ever having to leave Google.

So, now that Google has added this new search feature, what’s next? Over time, these menus will likely get connected with a restaurant’s Google+ page. Google probably will also begin to rollout features at an additional cost: adding pictures of menu items, adding weekly specials, or adding a feature to make a reservation directly from the “menu card.” Only time will tell. But, if this new “menu card” feature indicates anything, it is that Google is continuing to take steps to make itself the start and end of any Internet journey.

 

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