Weak inter-adsorbate interactions are shown to play a crucial role in determining surface structure, with major implications for its catalytic reactivity. This is exemplified here in the case of acetate bound to Au(110), where the small extra energy of the van der Waals interactions among the surface-bound groups drives massive restructuring of the underlying Au. Acetate is a key intermediate in electro-oxidation of CO2 and a poison in partial oxidation reactions. Metal atom migration originates at surface defects and is likely facilitated by weakened Au-Au interactions due to bonding with the acetate. Even though the acetate is a relatively small molecule, weak intermolecular interaction provides the energy required for molecular self-assembly and reorganization of the metal surface.