Instagram is changing the food industry. Its marketing potential is like the cherry on the ice cream, and high-end chefs are finally realizing its power. Instagram has long been the site where passionate foodies upload photos of their favorite dishes, their glossy posts like feature spreads in Bon Appetit. Amateur home chefs and armchair gourmands, competing with each other for likes and comments, use Instagram to highlight their culinary creations, the highly filtered, Technicolor pictures of pineapple upside down cake and rainbow bagels attracting legions of followers.
Esteemed chefs once looked down on Instagram. Many upscale restaurants banned people from taking smart phone pictures of their food, claiming it was intrusive and cheapened the fine dining experience. However, once chefs realized Instagram’s marketing potential and the impact a great a post can make on their business, they changed their attitude about the social media platform. Today, chefs as diverse as Mario Batali, Emma Bengtsson, and Enrique Olivia use Instagram to attract customers. In other words, if a well-composed Instagram post of soft shell crabs with ramps goes viral, it’s almost guaranteed to fill restaurant seats. It’s not uncommon for chefs to create menus tailor made for Instagram.
While Instagram isn’t an integral part of all restaurants, more and more chefs are using technology to turn their dishes into viral sensations. More importantly, chefs are changing their cooking styles and creating menus that are more Instagram friendly. Plating has always been an important aspect of fine dining. To spin a famous phrase from chef Emeril Lagasse: Instagram kicks plating up a notch. At the same time, a restaurant’s lighting and décor can add or detract from an Instagram post, and chefs are redesigning their dining rooms to be more attractive on social media.
There is a downside, however, to creating menus tailor made for Instagram. What if the taste of the food doesn’t live up to the expectations set by online imagery?