Search for a restaurant using Google, and you're already told the times of day at which a particular place is busiest. But Google is about to make this information even more useful.
The fact that a restaurant is busy at 3PM on a Thursday afternoon doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to wait ages for service -- there may be more staff working, for instance. A new update to Google Search -- and Maps is to follow -- means you'll be able to see estimated wait times as well.
While the listed wait times are not calculated in real-time -- this would almost certainly raise privacy issues -- Google says that a fairly accurate estimate can be displayed using "anonymized historical data" which works in much the same way as the calculation to determine busy times for venues.
Google explains the new feature in a blog post:
To see wait times for nearly a million sit-down restaurants around the world that allow walk-ins, just search for the restaurant on Google, open the business listing, and scroll down to the Popular Times section. There you'll see the estimated wait time at that very moment. And by tapping on any of the hour bars, you'll see the estimated wait for that time period. You can even scroll left and right to see a summary of each day's wait times below the hour bars -- so you can plan ahead to beat the crowds.
The feature will be arriving in Google Search first, followed soon after by Google Maps.