When was the last time you checked the newspaper or flipped through a Zagat to pick where to eat? I’m going to go out on a limb and say never.
How younger generations decide what and where to eat is drastically changing. Instagram accounts that post pictures and reviews of foods and restaurants are gaining mass following and are increasingly influential. These foodie accounts are becoming peoples’ go to source for food and restaurant trends. As this is the case, restaurants are changing the way they market in order to reach more social media savvy and driven consumers.
Rather than spending money on paper ads, commercials, or trying to cater towards established food critics, restaurants are utilizing the popularity of food Instagrams. Some offer accounts with large following free meals in exchange for an Instagram post. They are also partnering with foodie Instagram accounts and giving away either free food or gift cards to followers as a way to entice new customers. This is a cheaper and more effective way for restaurants to gain exposure.
Instead of solely relying on other accounts for promotion, many restaurants are building their own social media presence. They are using the platform to share photos of their food, specials they are offering, and exclusive promotions for followers only. Restaurants increasing their social media presence allows followers and potential diners to see the food before they go try a new place. I know when someone suggests eating at a place I’ve never been, the first thing I do is check their Instagram. It is a basically free way for restaurants to advertise.
As more people are concerned with having the perfect social media presence, they are opting to take aesthetically pleasing photos of their food before they eat it. I don’t think it’s possible to go out to eat with a group of young people without everyone whipping out their phones when the food comes and someone saying “phone eats first.” Restaurants encourage food photo shoots, as some have even enhanced their ambiance and lighting for patrons to capture the perfect picture. One restaurant with locations in London and New York, DirtyBones, gives diners light kits to encourage taking/posting pictures of meals.
Other strategies include making sure the restaurant’s name is visible in the photos, either on the plate, the food itself, or both. Many places are putting their logo on anything, from ice cubes to burgers to dumplings. These tactics ensure that when someone posts a picture of their food, their followers are going to know exactly where it is from without even having to ask.
Some places are serving trendy and aesthetically pleasing foods that rely on their looks rather than taste. I have never heard anyone say they went to the Sugar Factory in NYC because their signature goblet drinks are too irresistibly tasty. But I have heard that it was for the ‘gram.