On Thursday, Google announced in a blog post you can now order food directly from search results, Maps, and Google Assistant. I immediately assumed that meant an army of drones to drop your favorite order from Chick-Fil-A or Buffalo Wild Wings onto your doorstep. That's how Google would do it, right?
Actually, it turns out that the company has partnered with delivery services like DoorDash, Postmates, Delivery.com, Slice, and ChowNow. In theory, you don't have to download a bunch of different apps anymore. Instead, the option to "Order Online" will show up in search results for restaurants that participate, and you can complete the entire ordering process using Google.
According to the announcement: "For participating restaurants, you can make your selections with just a few taps, view delivery or pickup times, and check out with Google Pay. "
You can even use Google Assistant by saying "order food from (insert favorite restaurant here)" and a menu will pop up letting you make your choices. Google will save your past orders for re-ordering, though you'll have to decide if you really want Google to know that you crave the McDonald's McRib sandwich (despite what you tell your friends).
It seems pretty convenient to me. I don't like having to remember which food delivery services work with which restaurants, and to an extent, this takes the guesswork out of it. Notably, Grubhub and UberEats aren't a part of this rollout--but Google does say that "others are coming soon." The company also hasn't said whether the service will work through Google-assistant enabled smart speakers, but I can't imagine it will be long before that happens.
The meal delivery industry is growing, and if you run a startup in this space, you should absolutely pay close attention. While Google can make it easier for you to expand your reach, it's also positioning itself between you and your customer--which makes it harder for you to increase brand awareness.
I spoke with one source in the industry who told me that for startups, either your ship has sailed or you need to view this as an opportunity to create strategic partnerships. In other words, it's time to get creative about finding partners that already serve the customers you want to reach. For example, Facebook already allows you to use its platform to schedule appointments--and its built-in audience can be potentially massive.
I've tried to test out Google's new feature, but couldn't find any participating restaurants in my area, despite the fact that Door Dash definitely delivers to my area. Perhaps various areas are still rolling out over the next few days. Google didn't immediately respond to a request for clarification.
Update: Google did confirm that it will continue to roll out with their partners over the next week.