- Google has introduced new features for Lens, including the ability to recommend the most popular meals at restaurants by pointing your camera at a menu, according to Venture Beat. Lens is a visual search and vision tool that can identify plants, animals, text, celebrities and more than a billion retail items.
- Users will be able to read ratings and reviews for these dishes from online reviews.
- The update also enable Google to split a bill or calculate a tip after a meal by pointing your camera at the receipt, as well as read text or signs.
Google's focus on the restaurant space makes plenty of sense, as consumers more heavily rely on their mobile phones to inform dining decisions and better access their favorite brands through apps, loyalty programs and online ordering. In addition to the new Lens features, Google Maps is testing a new feature that shows photos of meals at a restaurant. The app already showcases nearby restaurants and their menu offerings.
More than 70% of online searches for restaurants are conducted on a mobile device, for example, which means most consumers are making their dining decisions on the go. This is where the new Maps features can play a big role in capturing those users.
Further, for those customers who may be in an even bigger hurry, the Lens' new ability to recommend a restaurant's most popular meals essentially removes the decision-making process. The augmented reality "layer" nixes the additional step of opening another app and also includes a photo of the recommended meal to further entice diners, who tend to make dining decisions with their eyes.
Convenience is critical for consumers, so offering the ability to make the restaurant process — from searching to ordering to paying — easier can provide a bit of an advantage in the $800 billion space. Android's share of the U.S. mobile market is about 54%, so that's a big audience to capture.
Still, these new features could add some pressure to restaurants that may want to promote other meals than those Google curates as the most popular, or simply because those restaurants can't control reviews that pop on Google Maps. It essentially brings up a major question over control. With Google elevating meals, restaurants lose control of their own messaging. As Skift Table pointed out in its Megatrends 2019 report, Google's domination of local discovery is nearly complete because of our reliance on smartphones and GPS. Google's latest moves prove it has become a critical tool for restaurants., but it is also fundamentally changing how restaurants market themselves.