Why Instagram is a tasty investment for businesses in the food and drink sector
WE all know the scene. You’re catching up with friends over dinner. Everyone’s talking over each other. Lucy’s just told you about her latest promotion and Amy won’t stop subtly turning every conversation to her new fiancé. And then the food arrives.
“Sorry, two secs – just putting this on Instagram.”
“Do you want me to tag you in my story?”
Heads turn as someone forgets to turn their flash off and gives the game away. Add your location and an appropriate ‘Friday funday’ caption and you’re good to go.
For many, taking pictures of food has simply become part and parcel of the dining out experience and while some members of the table might recoil in horror, more and more of us are taking to the app to share our plates. Research carried out in 2015 found there to be over 300 million food pictures on Instagram – considerably higher than the 69 million sunsets uploaded to the app. Three years on, even the most conservative of estimates would place the figure at significantly higher and the popularity of the pre-dinner ritual shows no sign of slowing down.
In fact, not only are we using Instagram to share what we’re eating, it seems the app now plays a role in determining where we eat.
Today, personal recommendations pale in comparison to being able to type the name of a restaurant into the photo-sharing app and immediately scroll through the delicious visual menu. Word of mouth has evolved to the point where “Oh my word it was so good, you need to try it” is no longer enough – show me a photo where I can zoom in on the melted cheese and make my own mind up instead.
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard
The power of Instagram in influencing our dietary choices has reached the point where 18-35-year-olds now spend an average of five days per year scrolling through food pictures on the app. Perhaps more concerning to restaurateurs is that 30 per cent admit they would avoid going to a restaurant if it has a weak Instagram presence.
Weird and wonderful food creations have also found fame on the app – rainbow bagels and $15 ‘crazy’ milkshakes took New York by storm last year, with foodies queuing round the block to get their hands (or phones) on them.
A killer app to be bowled over by
London’s Cereal Killer café (with a menu consisting entirely of … cereal) has appeared on the radar as one of latest additions to the city’s Instagram checklist. With an endless array of breakfast cereals to choose from and nostalgic 90’s TV shows played on repeat, the café has quickly become Brick Lane’s latest hipster haunt.
Despite the grinning faces of cereal aficionados ‘checking in’, the Cereal Killer café has received mixed reviews – with critics claiming that the reality of the £5 bowl of cereal falls short of the online hype.
A big fish in the digital sea
Scotland’s own Six by Nico has seen similar, albeit arguably more deserved, social media fame. The restaurant’s theme rotates every six weeks, offering diners the chance to try a curated sample-menu. With quirky dishes taking influence from unusual places – including a classic Scottish chippy – the restaurant has become an Instagram hit and sports booked-up branches in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Whilst the food is patently delicious, the omnipresence of happy snappers in the restaurant creates a strange atmosphere where you would be forgiven for assuming the real value of the visit to be the coveted Instagram picture rather than the food itself.
And it’s not only food. The photographic value of a restaurant’s décor has also become increasingly important to Instagrammers – after all, nothing goes with poached eggs and avocado quite like millennial pink.
Sketch is perhaps the perfect example, with the chain of London restaurants a front-runner for the most Instagrammable décor title. Plush velvet sofas and minimal wall-to-ceiling artwork (or ‘sketches’) cover the dusty pink walls and turn the restaurant-come-teahouse-come-gallery into a tourist destination in itself, famed for its furniture as much as its food.
Even the toilets are a hashtag haven – complete with futuristic egg-like pods and multi-coloured lighting panels across the ceiling. With a bathroom straight out of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it’s unsurprising that Sketch is the number one Google hit for ‘Instgrammable London toilets’ (which has 108,000 results, btw).
Bizarrely, Sketch’s Insta-popular interiors were not a conscious design choice and the chain of restaurants, toilets and all, launched before the app even existed. In recent years, however, interior designers have spoken of restaurant and bar owners going as far as to include the term ‘Instagrammable’ in their briefs, suggesting that the opportunity to cash in on this newfound form of marketing is leading design choices across the industry.
Flash for cash
Whilst many leading figures and chefs within the industry are quick to denounce the obsession as little more than a fad – “pretty food doesn’t mean good food” – there is an interesting argument to be had. Tapping into the online phenomenon has proved to be a hugely successful – and lucrative – move for many businesses.
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