Google Allows Users to Search Menus

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Among the thousand of products and services Google Inc. (GOOG) offers free to users, it would be hard to imagine a new one, or, at least one which could draw a lot of traffic. But, the search company has come up with a new, original service -- the opportunity to check the menus of countless restaurants as a means to decide where to eat.

In a blog post for Google+, engineers wrote recently:

Next time you’re planning a brunch or a date night, check to make sure the menu has something to satisfy everyone in your group, without having to browse through several restaurants’ websites. Just search Google to show you the menu for the eatery you’re considering and you can see it right on the top of your search page—complete with tabs for different parts of the menu (like appetizers, brunch or dinner) and, often, prices—before you make your reservation. Menus are available in the U.S. only for now. Bon appétit!

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Google occasionally introduces something which can disrupt an entire industry. The restaurant industry relied on paper menus for decades, and perhaps longer. People had to physically show up  to make decisions. The internet has changed that somewhat. However, many restaurants do not display their entire lists of food and drink. Google means to change that, whether the industry likes it or not.

The Google feature could take two victims -- Foursquare and Yelp, which already offer restaurant menus. Since neither has anywhere near the traffic Google search does, each could be hurt by a drop in market share in the menu viewing business. But the largest hurt could be to restaurants. Anything that allows people to make decisions about what to eat and drink before they make a physical visit may take away the foot traffic so many restaurants rely on.

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For Google, menus search is just one more of an army of features. For the restaurant industry, it could be a large injury.

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