What Restaurateurs Need to Know About Third-Party Delivery Services and Google “Hijacking”
Every month, there are more than 5 billion Google searches for restaurants. When a potential new customer is looking for great “pizza near me”, or a returning customer needs to confirm a restaurant’s weekend hours, they head to Google.
Suffice it to say: Google is extremely valuable for restaurants. Third-party restaurant delivery marketplaces understand this, which is why they exploit restaurants’ search engine traffic by intercepting their customers and redirecting them to their commission-based online ordering platforms.
If you are operating a restaurant, you need to watch out for these areas where third-party delivery apps can “hijack” your Google traffic, customers and sales. Then, take control of your Google presence and reclaim your customers with tips from ChowNow’s online ordering experts.
How exactly do third-party delivery apps’ “hijack” restaurant search traffic? They flood your restaurant’s search results, whether or not you work with them.
If You Don’t Work with Third-Party Delivery Apps, Beware of Impostors
Certain food delivery services will create a profile on their platforms for your restaurant, even if you don't work with them. When this happens, they make a unique URL with your establishment’s name and address, and add in other relevant information. Then, they’ll put a large disclaimer on the profile, saying that your restaurant isn't taking orders online.
These “decoy” pages rank highly in search results. Customers who look for your restaurant on Google see them and click, expecting to order from you. When they arrive on these decoy pages, though, they read in big, bold letters, "This restaurant is not taking online orders. Try a similar restaurant nearby."
Take a look at this example: Grubhub's decoy page for Abbot's Pizza Company shows up near the top of their Google search results. The Grubhub listing incorrectly states that Abbot's isn't accepting online orders, and suggests that customers order from other restaurants instead.
If this bait-and-switch tactic is being used against your restaurant, it’s sending your customers straight to competing establishments who are willing to pay big commissions to restaurant takeout marketplaces.
More and more restaurateurs are noticing these tactics – and aren’t happy. For example, US Foods® customers Frank and Renee Pasquarella of Frankie’s Pizza in Miami comment, “Grubhub says that [our] restaurant is not taking online orders! That is just wrong to do that!”
Even If You Do Use Third-Party Apps, They’ll Still Strong-arm Your Restaurant
Third-party apps also manipulate the search engine traffic for restaurants that do work with them. They purchase the website domain names of restaurants using their platforms. In fact, Grubhub and Seamless have bought well over 23,000 such web domains.
Sometimes, in a practice known as “cybersquatting,” marketplace apps just keep the domains, so independent restaurants can't purchase them and start their own sites. Without the ability to own their own URLs, restaurants are forced to keep using middlemen platforms if they want to stay online.
Other times, Grubhub creates templated sites that look as if they belong to real restaurants, but in reality only link to Grubhub. These decoy sites also display tracked phone numbers that Grubhub uses to charge restaurants commissions on phone orders.
The fact is, whether your restaurant works with marketplaces like Grubhub or avoids them like the plague, they can intercept your digital customers and take your profits.
Marketplace apps also insert themselves into your Google profile. When customers search for your restaurant on Google, there’s a good chance that a box appears at the top of the page, containing information like your business address, hours of operation, and links to your website, menu, and so on. This a Google Business Profile (and is also sometimes known as a “knowledge panel”).
Online Delivery Marketplace Apps Place Advertisements On Your Google Profile
Unfortunately, Google allows third-party apps like Grubhub and Seamless to pay for ads on your profile. These ads are only available to third-party ordering services, and they capitalize on your name and brand presence, catching prospective customers and taking your sales. This can happen even if you have online ordering directly on your own website and aren’t even working with a given marketplace app.
The New York Times documented this phenomenon and the problems it has created for a restaurant called The Handpulled Noodle. In the reporter’s words, Google Business Profile ads "direct customers to delivery apps that charge steep fees and cut into the restaurant's already thin profit margins." Although many customers find The Handpulled Noodle through its Google listing, owner Andrew Ding "has no control over how his business is represented [and] there is no way for him to get rid of the ad next to the Google listing."
Marketplace Apps Also Interfere With Your Google Listing Using Unpaid Links
It's not just advertisements on Google Business Profiles that can be a problem – even the information that's listed for free can be used to your restaurant's disadvantage.
Some operators find unwanted or unaffiliated online ordering platforms listed on their Business Profiles, both in the small "Order" section and upon clicking the large blue "Order Online" button.
In this example, Seamless is listed as an online ordering provider on Abbot’s Pizza Company’s Google Business Profile. When a user clicks on the link for Seamless, though, they come to a page falsely stating that Abbot's isn't accepting orders.
What Can You Do?
So, what can you do to protect and reclaim your Google presence?
1. Claim your Google My Business profile.
Google My Business is a free tool for operators like you to manage their presence across Google’s properties. Claiming your page and verifying your information will help your restaurant show up on local map listings, send customers to your website, and reinforce your brand.
2. Add engaging content and respond to customers.
Your Google My Business profile is a highly visible place to tell your restaurant’s story. With it, you can entice prospective customers by posting photos of your food – and sharing what makes your restaurant special.
Your customers will use your Google My Business profile to leave reviews and ask questions. Monitor this content regularly to ensure that everyone is satisfied, and can easily enjoy your restaurant with the most up-to-date information about your menu, hours and other specifics.
3. Work with a branded online ordering provider.
ChowNow can turn your Google traffic into takeout orders – on your own terms. Food Ordering with Google, powered by ChowNow, puts your restaurant in control of your Google presence, creating a direct relationship between your Google traffic and sales. Whether customers are searching for your restaurant by name, or are looking for key terms like “best burger near me,” they can order takeout from you directly through Google Search, Maps and the voice-controlled Google Assistant.
While other Food Ordering with Google providers charge hefty commissions, ChowNow empowers restaurants to keep their profits.
4. Submit feedback about your Business Profile.
Send feedback straight to Google, but reach out to US Foods and ChowNow if you need help.
Find yourself with an unwanted platform listed on your Google Business Profile? Currently, the process Google recommends is for you to use the "Submit Feedback" button within your Google Business Profile Dashboard. There, you can make a request to Google to remove unwanted third-party providers. You can also contact these third-party apps directly with your request. If you want to completely opt out of Food Ordering with Google, fill out this form, which you can find in the Google My Business Help Center.
If you have a ChowNow online ordering system, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Restaurant Success Manager for advice. If you're not a ChowNow restaurant partner yet, schedule a demo through CHECK Business Tools to get your very own commission-free online ordering system.
About ChowNow: ChowNow powers an online food ordering system as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly from a restaurant's website, Facebook page, Instagram profile and custom-built mobile apps – commission-free. Learn more about ChowNow by visiting online ordering in CHECK Business Tools.
Visit the CHECK Resource Center for more articles full of valuable insights, industry analysis and helpful tools that can help you grow your business.