Eat with your eyes first: Instagrammable food

It’s a familiar sight in restaurants everywhere; a dish is delivered to the table and before a single taste touches the diner’s lips, out comes the smartphone to snap a photo for Instagram. Within nano seconds, the photo is shared online along with a mention of your restaurant. Maybe you’re already checking it out for content, or perhaps you’re not a particular fan of the image platform. Instagram, however, is changing the restaurant business, bringing exciting new opportunities as well as challenges. Explore how to make it work for you…

Insta 101

A quick recap on Instagram and how it works. Instagram is a social network, which uses a mobile app. With the app, users can share images with a short story attached. It really is all about the image though, and thanks to the built-in filters and edit tools it’s easy to create captivating footage. As a user, you follow accounts that share what you like. People who like what you share will start to follow you. For brands, celebrities or private users, ‘follower’ numbers are important as it validates what you share. Some accounts get thousands of followers and these include private people who turn their popularity into business success; the influencers and vloggers. Food is particularly popular on Instagram. To give you an idea, the account funwithfries, which shares pictures of fries exclusively, has over 200,000 followers!

Instagram influencing diners

When it comes to sharing their food online, Millennials in particular can’t help themselves – 69% of them do or have done so. And the Instagram craze is feeding into an interesting revolution that’s taking place when it comes to attracting customers to restaurants. In these times of fake news, people have lost faith in the traditional news outlets. This, in turn, has allowed community-driven platforms such as Yelp, Tripadvisor and, more recently, Instagram to take over as decision making tools for choosing a restaurant. Instagram has been rapidly growing, as Yelp saw a 9000% increase of searches related to the platform for food images. And as Instagram now has a location filter, 10% of restaurant visitors use it as their go-to tool. Obviously, relying on social platforms carries risks, as anyone can create misleading or fake content – like the experiment by a Vice journalist who created a fake restaurant and got it listed as the number one restaurant in London on Tripadvisor!

Who is the Instagram user?

As a tool for finding a place to eat, Instagram is used by a number of generations. Millennials in particular and Gen Z are very fond of the app, but don’t exclude Gen X – as later adopters, they are hot on their heels. As all these generations rely more and more on online information, their dining expectations and decisions are heavily influenced by hypes and trends online. Not just in what they eat, but also in their dining experience, which now includes sharing too. Playing into that is one of the big opportunities for restaurant owners. 

Not yet convinced of the value Instagram has for your business? Then bear in mind the app has more than one billion active users. That’s a MASSIVE amount of consumers out there you could, potentially, reach directly by sharing content or advertising.

Changing the dining experience

Restaurateurs are rushing to get on board and provide a photogenic backdrop for this new dining. They invest in better lighting and fancy, new serving ware (matte materials do better in photos don’tcha know!) and even go as far as developing Instagrammable menu items. What could that look like?

  • Colourful food, the more outlandish the better. Colouring it blue can spice up even a usually dull dollop of sauerkraut.
  • Food hybrids, the stranger and more spectacular, the better. Think of the cro-nut, chocolate pizza, sushi burgers and other mind-boggling food combinations.
  • Funky, OTT versions of classics, like a pizza slathered with extra cheese, a mega schnitzel or fantastically decorated cakes.
  • And so much more… surprising, astonishing, bewildering and entertaining types of food.

Banking on Instagram?

So, thinking of getting started with Instagram? The perfect platform for storytelling, sharing news and engaging with your customers, it can definitely boost your business and get results. Play your cards right, and your customers will create the content for you and create that online buzz! All you really have to do is set the scene with Instagram savvy dining experience and atmosphere. And the basics – make sure you have an account and Google location, so your business can be tagged and mentioned by your guests.

So how do you provide an Instagrammable dining experience? Follow these tips to get going:

  • Think of your lighting – pictures require light, so avoid looking like a dark, shady place.
  • Keep it clean – more light also reveals more of your restaurant, so make sure everything’s tip top.
  • Freshen up your decor – statement wallpaper or a piece of wall art can give greater picture appeal (and even be attractions in themselves).
  • Have an eye for the details – from the takeaway bags, menus and plates you use to your straws and napkins, make sure everything is Insta-proof.
  • Make sure everyone is on board – convince your kitchen staff to work some magic with the dishes they send out. No matter if it's the soup of the day or your star dish, let them shine!

Want to really push the envelope? Try these for size:

  • Use your interior for storytelling – make your restaurant story part of your interior. There are many ways to do that, and it also provides your diners with entertainment while they wait.
  • Make it super easy with Instagram kits – provide tripods, designated Instaspots or let your staff pose with the dish. Make it simple and fun for guests to share your food online!

But before you dive in headfirst, remember that social media can backfire, so make sure you know how to handle complaints or negative feedback positively. Even that offers opportunities for your restaurant’s image.

Inspired? Then let’s get started! And who knows, you could soon find yourself an online mega star! Find more inspiration for Instagrammable dishes in our blogs on:

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