Looking for a restaurant menu? Now you can search Google and never leave the search results.
You can search [show me the menu for (insert restaurant name)] and Google will display their full menu directly in the search results, without you needing to click through to an additional page, whether on the restaurants homepage or on a third-party website that displays menus, Google announced.
The results also have multiple tabs, so if the menu was split up in section (e.g., appetizers, main courses), you can select any of the tabs to view that particular menu section.
It isn't known exactly where Google is getting the menus from, although they are reportedly getting it from a third party. There are multiple websites that do have menus for a wide variety of restaurants, such as AllMenus.com, Gayot.com and Zagat. There are reports of some of the data is outdated, but I expect it will improve, especially once the third-party source becomes known and restaurants can ensure that site has their most recent menu.
There is also schema.org markup for restaurants to use for their menus, although it seems to be not well known by webmasters or restaurateurs. However, it's still unclear if Google is utilizing any of this information at this time, or perhaps to defaulting to that when it's available. But it seems as though this might be an easy way for Google to verify that the menu is current and up-to-date, and direct from the restaurant's site.
This new feature, which started as a small test, is definitely be seen as a potential competitor to sites such as Urban Spoon, since many of those site's visitors are looking for easy access to menus. But it will also keep traffic off of restaurants webpages, when someone is looking for a menu and might have otherwise gone directly to the restaurant to view it.
There's also the potential that this could be updated quite frequently, once restaurant owners know how they can do this. They could potentially update their menus to show specials of the day or special menus for occasions such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.
The feature is available only in the U.S., and not all menus are available this time. Hopefully Google will release more detailed information to help restaurants ensure that the menus Google is displaying are current and updated.
Update: Glenn Gabe alerted us via Twitter that it appears as though Google's data partner is SinglePlatform. TripAdvisor uses SinglePlatform, and the menus on TripAdvisor and Google are an exact match.