Decadent cuisine, impeccable service, ambiance galore ... these are a few of the past drivers for diners wanting to enjoy a memorable dinner.
Today, there is another criteria growing in importance: the degree to which food is “Instragram-able.”
Instagram is changing foodservice from fine dining to food trucks. Drool-worthy photos are offering a new way to form connections, evoke emotions and share experiences.
Ben Walton of Ben’s Canteen in the UK is just one restauranteur embracing Instagram.
“It’s a good way to check whether we’re resonating with our crowd. If people are posting lots of pictures, we know we’re doing something right,” Walton told The Independent.
While some may scratch their heads in astonishment at the “Instagram effect,” a look at the trends behind the trend reveals it makes a lot of sense. First, food and drink have always been a way to form connections.
From Thanksgiving family dinners to first dates, sharing a meal is a bonding experience as old as time. Layer onto this a generation of digital natives who form connections not through face-to-face interactions, but digitally.
This generation is also one that is less trustful of traditional institutions (businesses, government, and even NGOs) than previous ones.
Instead, they trust peers and people who they see as “like themselves” and are therefore viewed as more authentic and credible. Add all of this together and you can feel the Instagram momentum build.
So who is doing the Instagramming? It’s your kids, that babysitter you hired and just about anybody under the age of 35. Next time you’re out to dinner, watch a table of millennials: before they taste or even smell their food, they’re snapping pictures.
Millennials curate their identity through social media, and Instagram is one of those avenues. In recent years we have seen the rise of a new persona in the culinary world: the social media influencer.
A social media influencer is someone who creates content (blogs, photos, videos and more) online and who has a sizeable, loyal social media following. Some can charge a pretty penny to restaurants and food brands that increasingly realize these individuals are the modern-day equivalent of a newspaper or magazine restaurant critic.
According to Bon Appetit, influencers can, and often do, “make” restaurants. A wave of Instagram posts about the milkshakes at Black Tap Burgers in New York’s Soho led to a Buzzfeed story with more than 2 million views, hours-long lines, and a feature on ABC’s “The Chew.”
Grower/shippers can take some lessons from the trend and apply them to their own marketing and visual story telling. The next time you are developing materials that include photos, think about it through the Instagram lens and ask yourself: is this picture Instagram-worthy?
Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. Centerplate is a monthly column on “what’s now and next” for foodservice and the implications for produce. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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