Google Maps now uses machine learning to find restaurants’ best dishes, make suggestions

Google Maps want to help restaurant diners know what to order. The company today is rolling out an update to Google Maps on Android, with iOS to follow, which will highlight the restaurant’s most popular dishes. The feature itself is using machine learning to uncover these dish suggestions based on the restaurants’ reviews and photos.

That is, if diners have praised an item in their review, Google Maps will use that information to determine what to suggest, while also matching the dish to the photos uploaded by customers to create its selection of what’s popular there. Of course, that means restaurants with few reviews, or none at all, won’t benefit from this addition.

And as an automated system as opposed to manual curation, Google may also get things wrong on occasion — especially at first, as machine learning typically improves a set of recommendations over time.

Restaurant goers will be able to help by snapping photos of their own meals and upload them to Google Maps. The app will then prompt them to add the dish name to help better inform this new feature.

The dish suggestions will appear in the Overview tab in Google Maps. When you see a dish you like, you can tap on it to see all the related reviews where the dish is discussed by other diners. You can also tap on the menu tab to see dishes by popularity or broken down by dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.

The feature is a minor but useful addition to Google Maps, which has been steadily becoming a more robust platform for businesses in recent months. Last fall, it began to challenge Facebook with tools that allow consumers to track favorite businesses to stay alerted to sales, events and other information shared by the business owner. It also last year rolled out personalized suggestions in a “For You” tab, where the app would recommend places you’d like to visit, dine, shop and more.

Combined, these features have helped push Google Maps beyond being a simple utility for finding places and navigating to them — but have turned it into more of a platform that leverages technology to offer a personalized experience for end users.

Google says the new popular dishes feature is live today on Android and will reach iOS in the “coming months.”