Reporter's Notebook

Google joins the NRA Show

Talking up Places and a new application, Google Recommends

Walking through the technology pavilion, you can’t miss the biggest booth there -- Google. Like everything Google does, the company was making its presence felt in a big way.

For its first time at the NRA Show, Google was talking up its Places, Offers and Reviews. It also was quietly discussing Google Recommends, a hyper-local tool that users would use to gather more information at the location of a restaurant.

For operators, Google wanted to make certain that Places was top of mind. Google Places is the search landing page for businesses, and parts of it can be controlled by the restaurateur. With Google’s domination in search, the booth reps said, restaurant chains and individual locations should place emphasis on the confirming the content displayed on the Places page, from locations, contact information and menu items to new offers or management.

But what was really exciting was Google’s almost soft launch of Google Recommends, which uses an interactive sticker allowing smart phone users to tap the logo and pull up more information about businesses. I was told the sticker uses Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, which as of now is only used on very cutting edge phones, and is expected on the iPhone 5.

It operates almost like a QR code – a quick-response bar code that smart phones can scan and then get taken to a website for more information. The Google Recommends sticker works in the same way, but only requires a tap of the smart phone to the sticker.

Imagine your customers deciding between a few restaurants and being able to get information on specials, seats, wines – or deals – from directly outside the location.

Mark Brandau, NRN’s editor in Chicago who covers marketing, had reported in March that restaurant chains of all sizes are placing a larger emphasis on search engine optimization to build traffic at restaurants:

“Google Places is most relevant and important because it’s obvious that the algorithm values review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor,” said Gary Bahl, director of marketing for the 13-unit Mama Fu’s Asian House. “Google will access that information, and if you’ve optimized the content on those sites, it will pull up in the search results.

“It’s the same process for all websites: staying current and pushing new content,” he continued. “When we have things to talk about, we use social media to create new news that’s valuable to the search engines.”

Other first-timer tech suppliers at the NRA Show include Facebook, Groupon, Living Social, Travelzoo and Yelp. Beyond the big players, the technology pavilion was filled with numerous companies peddling apps, social media tools, mobile menuing and mobile point of sales services.

Contact Sarah Lockyer at
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.


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