Google Needs To Stop Acting Like It Has Info It Does Not

So, this week Google has announced that it will start showing estimated wait times at restaurants in search results. I did a search for a local restaurant I know to be popular and chose to view Saturday estimates and got this result:

Restaurant Wait Time Image

This place consistently has over an hour wait on weekends, even for small parties, but it says up to 30 minutes.

Or this one, where it is hard to get a table without a reservation on the weekends, at all and it says up to 15 minutes:

Restaurant Wait Time Image 2

From an article about this new feature on Search Engine Journal, the estimates are calculated thusly:

How Google Calculates Estimated Wait Times

If I were a restaurant owner, I would not be happy about this.  If the numbers are significantly off and show wait times that are less than what a person is likely to experience, this sets up situations where people will be upset. People won’t dig into how Google calculates these figures, it’s in a Google result, which for most people essentially automatically makes it believable. And the estimates are not accurate.

Sure, people should only use this information as an initial guideline and actually call a restaurant they are interested in going to and find out what the wait actually is, but let’s get real – an awful lot of people just won’t do that. And they certainly won’t be taking that responsibility or blame onto themselves in most cases when the arrive at an establishment to find that the actual wait time is 2x what Google said it should be. They will see this information presented in an official Google answer box in their search results and rely on it. They have been conditioned, by Google, to do just that.

It sets restaurants up to have to continually potentially be the bearer of bad news to customers who had an expectation created for them by someone other than the business itself.

I love the idea of the real time information being available in search results – that would actually be quite helpful. But putting estimated data based on “anonymized historical data” (which is not representative of all people who were at a restaurant during the time period being used, only those that Google could capture information on) in search results, it is presenting guesstimates more as facts. And that’s not right.

Restaurants struggle enough these days to keep customers happy and tables filled. I’m not sure this makes their jobs any easier.

What do you think? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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