Inside the social food movement


14 mins read

Customers always eat with their eyes first – and now a staggering number also eat with their smartphones and social media accounts before picking up their fork. 

A Mintel report on technology in US restaurants last year found 29.2 million people posted a food or drink picture to their social media in just one month. And according to tech media company The Next Web, those food photos are the second most popular category shared on Instagram.

It all boils down to one thing: you now have to think about impressing not only the person sitting at your table, but the potential customers who may see a photo from that meal pop up on their social media.

"Desserts are quite Instagram-able, people go mad for them."

Food photos are the second most popular category shared on Instagram.

The reasons why your customers take and share photos of their food online vary.

Sometimes, it’s simply a “this is what I ate today” food diary. Other times, it’s because the food’s presentation has some artistic merit that diners can’t help but share.

But often it’s due to a special occasion or just the social nature of sitting down with friends and family around a table. People love taking and sharing photos from their celebrations, and food is often a big part of those.

If you can encourage this food photography through strategic menu planning and an even stronger emphasis on presentation, then you can reap the benefits of what’s essentially a cheap marketing tool – free, convincing user-generated advertising.

There are a number of ways in which restaurants can capitalise on this thirst for sharing photos of food.

You can look at ingredients that add “theatre” to a dish. For example, a good stretch of mozzarella adds a nice dramatic touch to a pizza snap (of which there are 19.5 million on Instagram).

Many restaurants have also successfully marketed their business through sharing their own dishes online.

One of Australia’s top chefs, Darren Robertson, told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) his Three Blue Ducks restaurant posted frequently to their 32,000 Instagram followers – with desserts proving most popular.

"Desserts are quite Instagram-able, people go mad for them," he said.

Food critic Terry Durack echoed the importance of restaurants sharing online, telling the AFR sites like Instagram are a “visual snapshot of a restaurant’s menu style and philosophy”.

"We find our restaurants online, we book our restaurants online, we shoot our food and post it online. It's the sharing economy, we all want to know what everyone else is up to, and tell them what we're eating."

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