Lawsuit Accuses Google of Deceptive Online Ordering Practices for Restaurants

Google stated that the suit includes "mischaracterizations of our product."

A person using Google on a laptop

As the world's most popular search engine, Google is undoubtedly a common place customers start when looking for a restaurant. But a new lawsuit alleges the search giant wasn't always just pointing users in the right direction, but would sometimes send customers to a landing page Google set up without the restaurant's permission and take a cut of ordering fees.

The law firm Keller Lenkner filed the proposed class action suit on behalf of Left Field Holdings, a franchisee of Lime Fresh Mexican restaurants, in U.S. District Court. On the firm's website — which is asking other restaurants to join the suit — Keller Lenkner explains, "When customers search for a restaurant on Google, a Restaurant Information Box appears that prominently displays an 'Order Online' button. There is nothing in the Restaurant Information Box that suggests that clicking 'Order Online' will route you to a third party instead of directly to the restaurant. But that's exactly what it does. Restaurants have to pay a fee for these third-party orders, and Google takes a cut of those fees at the restaurant's expense."

In a statement sent to Reuters, Google denied the claim, saying instead that the "Order Online" feature was intended to "connect customers with restaurants they want to order food from," and that restaurants can "indicate whether they support online orders or prefer a specific provider, including their own ordering website."

"We do not receive any compensation for orders or integrations with this feature," spokesperson José Castañeda added. "We dispute the mischaracterizations of our product and will defend ourselves vigorously."

However, in the court filing, the plaintiff alleges that, since 2019 when Google changed its search tactics, the company "never bothered to obtain permission from the restaurants to sell their products online" and "purposefully designed its websites to appear to the user to be offered, sponsored, and approved by the restaurant, when they are not." The lawsuit claims these illegitimate "storefronts" infringe upon restaurant's intellectual property rights by using their business names, logos, and trademarked images.

"The restaurant industry has already been gutted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online orders have served as a lifeline to help them reach customers, make a slim profit, and continue employing their staff members," Jason Zweig, a partner at Keller Lenkner stated, according to Nation's Restaurant News. "It is appalling that Google would take advantage of an industry going through such a challenging time and, through these deceptive and illegal practices, take a portion of their hard-earned profits for itself." The lawsuit is seeking monetary and injunctive relief.

In 2019, Grubhub was caught up in a similar controversy when the delivery provider was accused of creating landing pages for restaurants without their permission.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles