Virtual Restaurant Brands Do Not Have to be Invisible on Google

Trent Ruffolo, Solutions Marketing Manager
Sherman Tabor, Solutions Marketing Manager
Product: Listings
Blog Date: June 2022

Think about the last time you searched online for takeout food. You may have started by searching for delivery options from your favorite local restaurant, but it is also possible the restaurant brand you ended up selecting wasn't really a restaurant at all – at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, your food may have come from a virtual brand.

Until now, virtual restaurant brands – which offer food delivery and takeout services but no dine-in option – experienced many challenges when trying to list their business on Google because of restrictions in Google's previous policy. As of last month, Google has provided an update to their policy around listing virtual brands on Search and Maps.

Before diving into Google's new guidelines as well as how virtual brands can better take advantage of them, it is important to understand what a virtual restaurant is and the different types that are eligible.

What are virtual restaurant brands?

Virtual restaurant brands do not offer dine-in services, but instead strictly offer pick-up or delivery services – typically through third-party delivery apps like Doordash, Postmates, and Uber Eats. These virtual brands can come in many forms. Some examples include:

  • Delivery-only brands that operate out of a shared kitchen space with traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, utilizing shared resources such as equipment, order areas, and cleanup crews
  • Spin-off brand concepts of existing restaurants which focus on delivery channels
  • Delivery-only or takeout + delivery brands that operate out of a shared space (called a "ghost kitchen"), where multiple different virtual brands can share checkout and order services

Google’s new policy on virtual restaurant brands

Google's new policy on virtual brands provides clearer guidelines for eligible businesses to be listed on Search and Maps. Those guidelines, however, vary depending on the category that each brand falls into. There are three main categories with specific requirements for each:

1. Delivery Only
If a virtual brand only offers delivery services without takeout, it must meet the following requirements to be listed on Google:

  • Brands must add their service areas and hide their address in order to not confuse their customers
  • Brands must have a distinct website and unique packaging that is different from any brands they share an address with

2. Pickup Only or Pickup + Delivery
If a virtual brand offers pickup services, it must meet the following requirements to be listed:

  • Must be listed with an address that's visible on search and maps. If the brand also offers delivery, it should be listed as a hybrid business
  • Brands must have a distinct website and unique packaging that is different from any brands they share an address with
  • Requires physical signage – you have to prove to Google (typically with photos or videos) that the brand has permanent signage on the premises

3. Building that hosts multiple virtual brands
Ghost kitchen facilities that host multiple delivery-only brands are permitted to have their own facility profile, in addition to individual profiles for each brand. The facility must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible:

  • The containing facility can have its own listing, either with an address that's visible or hidden
  • Any virtual brands within the building should follow the guidelines above based on the category they fall into

It's critical that all virtual brands abide by the specific requirements within each category, because businesses that violate these policies are subject to having their Google listings suspended.

Use Yext to help you manage your Google Business Profile accounts

The ability for virtual brands to be listed on Google is an exciting opportunity, but the novelty also presents several considerations for business owners. Since the consequences could lead to listings getting suspended, it's crucial that businesses get it right. Yext is the industry leader in listings, and we are here to help! If you are interested in listing your virtual brand on Google or have any questions, reach out to your Yext CSM or contact Yext directly.

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