Instagram is the glossy mag of social. A picture speaks a thousand posts, which means unlike other platforms space is limited. Think back to traditional print media, to those bygone days when the competition for coverage was like the queue outside Bao on a Friday. Then online came along and suddenly there was room for everyone: websites, blogs, social feeds: the platforms were endless.
Instagram has evolved into the go-to space social food content, but the secret to its popularity is its quality. Users go to Instagram because they want to see sexy food pictures, where to find this food and where the people in the foodie-know are eating (and insta-ing). Popular and influential instagrammers use their accounts to cherry-pick the best of their experiences, the most exciting and interesting, but also practically the most photogenic.
It might sound cynical, but think about it: would you buy a glossy mag full of out-of-focus photos? If your restaurant was featuring in a website, magazine or newspaper you would make sure that your dishes were presented in the best angle, light and setting. Editors need photos, we all know that. It’s very difficult to get coverage without them.
It is no secret that foodies on instagram are a significant weapon in any restaurant’s arsenal, whether you are a Michelin-starred stalwart or a tiny pop-up. It’s a low-cost way to engage with potential customers, introduce yourself to the wider food community and to show the world what you can produce without even having to get them through the doors. It’s essentially a direct-line to a feed full of food and drink influencers and editors; each well-followed social feed is essentially its own publication. Think of Instagram as an ‘editor’s picks’.
Despite this, restaurants are suffering from a severe case of light deprivation. Yes, in an ideal world instagram would be populated in the natural light of the afternoon, but mostly people come in the evening and the trend for table-top photo lighting has not quite taken off -- watch this space though!
We are not suggesting that restaurants are fitted out with professional lighting, but do we really all need to sit in the near-dark? The move away from the stark-white settings of the noughties is a welcome one, anyone who applies makeup remains eternally grateful. But would it really hurt to turn the lights up a little?
On several occasions we have been in genuinely interesting restaurants, eating beautifully-presented dishes, but the resulting photo of a greying/brown squidgy blob just doesn’t scream ‘insta me!’. With most Insta accounts knowing that less is more, your low-lit dish is competing with the menus of the well-lit elite. Your menu may well have more flavour and ambition, but it will still be left in the dark if nobody can see what it has to offer.
It is not just the press, foodies and influencers that restaurants are missing out on, there is real value in encouraging customers to share their dining experience too. But only if it makes people want to try the food. Faced with the prospect of excluding your business from Instagram’s food feeds and poor-quality, unappetising customer pictures of dishes floating around the internet instead, maybe it’s time to turn the lights up a notch?
Bet that table-top lighting system doesn’t sound so silly now...
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