I came across a filter in restaurants’ local packs that looks new to me. The new filter allows users to only view listings with GMB table reservation enabled. The filter seems to be available across all devices but it’s not always displayed for all queries (for example, I don’t see it on desktop when I search for “Restaurants” but I see it for “Italian Restaurants).
The UI is different on mobile and desktop. On mobile devices users can click on the “find a table” bubble filter which opens a local finder with the party, date, and time selector overlay at the top, while on desktop the selector is available directly in local packs and choosing either of them opens a local finder. Listings in the reservation local finder all have booking time CTAs. Clicking on the CTAs opens the reservation interface.
Google has been expanding booking features for a long time. For example, Google has been testing showing 2 restaurant booking CTAs for restaurant listings since December. Google’s Reserve With Google program has also been growing pretty rapidly since its pilot launched in December 2016 in the U.S.. Last February Google rolled the RWG program out internationally to Canada and other other countries, and has been continuously expanding the list of supported categories (e.g. Museum ticket reservation, class reservation, etc.).
One of the main reasons why I think Google is pushing so hard for adoption of online reservations via local GMB listings by businesses and users is its struggle to monetize voice search. There are no voice search ads, which means Google loses money every time users use voice assistants, and on top of that Google loses money on most Google Home devices it sells trying to grab a bigger market share. All of this, and the growth of the reservation features (including the AI-powered Google Duplex, hotel bookings via voice, etc) can indicate that online reservations may be one of the ways for Google to finally start making money via voice search. In addition, I think we may see Google Ads CPA bidding expanded beyond hotels to more bookable industries in the near future.