Google Maps Tells You How Crowded Restaurants Are in Real Time

© Google

By Danica Lo Posted January 26, 2017

How to find out if a restaurant is busy right now.

If you're heading out to eat without a pre-booked reservation—and wondering whether there's already a long wait at your favorite restaurant—now you won't have to call ahead. In its latest update, Google Maps will show you exactly how busy restaurants are—in real time.

For a while, now, Google Maps has featured "Popular Times" in restaurant listings. "Popular times are based on average popularity over the last several weeks," the search engine FAQ explains—and it's predictive, not live. "Popularity for any given hour is shown relative to the typical peak popularity for the business for the week."

As of the iOS app's most recent update, today, Google Maps will showcase live visit data, which is updated in real time. There's also a new feature that show the average amount of time customers spend in the restaurant.

How does Google do it? Well, when Popular Times first rolled out, Google used "anonymous mobile positioning data" to gather information about customer movements. The new live tool, "rolls real-time smartphone location data into its crowd estimate algorithm," explains AppleInsider, "allowing more accurate and timely results."

This functionality was first rolled out to Google Maps' desktop experience in November, just before Black Friday—and now it's finally available on the mobile app.

Google Maps isn't the only way to save yourself time at no-reservation restaurants. Last August, mobile app Nowait rolled out to users. The app partnered with over 4,000 restaurants nationwide to allow customers to put their names down for tables remotely—and receive a text when their tables are ready.

"For restaurants, Nowait integrates, streamlines, and optimizes the entire front of house—from waitlists to table turnover to analytics and more—so that they efficiently provide amazing service," Nowait's website explains. "Guests use Nowait to add themselves to a restaurant's list, get texted when their table is ready, and privately rate their experiences at the end of the meal. Easy to use and even easier to love, Nowait provides the ideal restaurant experience for both sides of the table."

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