Avoiding Cameras While Training the Lens on Food

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How has tech transformed the world of dining?

There are lots of incremental, behind-the-scenes changes that affect restaurants more than consumers, such as more sophisticated reservation systems and point-of-sale software, but I think the most powerful, sweeping change has come from digital photography hooked up to the internet. Photography is now the main way we communicate about restaurant cooking. As a word guy I hate to say this, but it’s true.

I wrote an essay about this a few years ago, when the outlines of the new world were just coming into view, and it’s much more clear now. At the time, restaurant designers were just starting to think about lighting the dining room so people could take better pictures for Instagram. Now they talk openly about it, and you see it everywhere. It’s the thing that killed off the last trend in lighting, those amber-colored dangling Edison bulbs.

Now everybody is installing pin spots in the ceiling pointing straight down at the table, which is why you see all these very sharp and high-contrast pictures of plates on Instagram. The restaurants are doing this because it’s largely free marketing. (Some Instagrammers are so popular that restaurants will invite them in for a comped meal, so it’s not entirely free.) I was told that one major restaurant publicity firm in New York has a full-time employee who does nothing but help restaurants with Instagram.

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Instagram is pushing restaurants to be kitschy, colorful, and irresistible to photographers

 

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When it came time to design their first restaurant, Media Noche, San Francisco entrepreneurs Madelyn Markoe and Jessie Barker found themselves lacking inspiration. Their designer had asked them for ideas and they felt like “deer in headlights.” Ultimately, Markoe says, they came up with a single instruction: “We wanted to be Instagrammable.”

For years now, Instagram has sat at the center of trends in food and beverages. Rainbow-colored “unicorn foods” are often designed with Instagram in mind, and entrepreneurs responsible for popular treats like the galaxy donut and Sugar Factory milkshake often see lines around the block after images of their products go viral. Firms like Paperwhite Studio specialize in turning restaurants into Instagram bait by designing twee sugar packets, menus, and coasters bearing slogans like “hello, my sweet” and “hug more.

Now some entrepreneurs are taking the idea a step further, designing their physical spaces in the hopes of inspiring the maximum number of photos.

What Your Yelp Review Says About You

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Here are a few common examples of Yelp review comments and their actual meanings:

“The staff was snooty” I felt intimidated by how fancy this place was and/or arrived underdressed.

“The actor/waiter was…” My waiter was extremely good-looking and I resent that.

“Not authentic” I’d like to take this opportunity to brag about my world travels to a bunch of strangers online.

“Hipster” There was kale on the menu and nobody else was wearing UGG boots.

“We didn’t get a free ____” I am a terrible human being who doesn’t comprehend how the economy works.

“The portions were too small” I’m probably from the Midwest and/or typically dine at large chains where I’m accustomed to being served a giant trough of food.

“Too scene-y” Nobody hit on me.

“Not enough vegetarian options” I use my dietary restrictions as a means to get attention and can’t accomplish that at an actual vegetarian restaurant, which is where I should have gone in the first place.

“The ______ was terrible” I lack a basic understanding of the concept of personal preference.

 

 

Your romantic first dates? Restaurants hate them.

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Your awkward first date can amuse restaurant staff. But other patrons may not be that delighted. And because every seat is a piece of money-making real estate, the dozens of dates you’ve gone on this year may also be affecting many businesses’ bottom line.

Particularly when daters stare into their phones for 30 minutes without ordering, waiting for their match to turn up. And when they spend another two hours talking about their childhood and lactose intolerance while nursing a single, happy-hour-priced beer.

As the number of first dates taking place every night explodes — Tinder alone purports to generate 1.3 million dates per week — it’s transforming restaurants in numerous ways, affecting their ambience, their table timing, even the way they’re designed.

Restaurant Owner Wages All-Out Yelp Assault on Customers Who Leave Bad Reviews

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In the most recent — and perhaps most extreme — instance of Neary’s Yelper-directed rage, a Yelp Elite user who left a bad review calling Onefold “perhaps his most hilariously bad dining experience of all time” has now been accused by Neary of viewing illegal pornography on his laptop while at the restaurant.

Of course, Neary’s not the first chef or restaurant owner to bite back at Yelp reviewers: A Boston restaurant owner posted photos of two badly behaved Yelpers on Instagram to publicly shame them, while a Vancouver chef confronted a Yelp user who left a bad review on live radio.

How Instagram is weaving its way into restaurant design

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Aliza Sokolow, who owns the Poppyseed Agency, which provides social media consulting (and Instagram services) for various restaurants in L.A., tells clients: “I can’t tell you how much money you’re going to make by investing in social media,” but if you/customers post a photo of an incredible egg sandwich, “people will think about that fried egg sandwich until they get it.”

Instagram’s role in a restaurant these days is more than just the stunningly plated (or intentionally wacky) food that compels a diner to whip out one’s phone and take a photo. Instagram is starting to weave its way—both consciously and unconsciously—into restaurant design, impacting table surfaces, focal point art, lighting and more.

These Plates Exist Purely So You Can Take the Perfect Instagram

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Low restaurant lighting, basic plating and ineffective Nashville filters ruining your damn life? This social media-savvy restaurant knows your struggle. Israel establishment Carmel Winery have been working tirelessly against low-lit, poorly-composed foodstagrams, teaming up with Tel Aviv restaurant Catit to create special Instagrammable meals on tailor-made crockery.

Available only on certain nights, the art project/gastronomy experience/publicity stunt is called ‘Foodography‘ and is probably the most serious control we’ve ever seen a restaurant take over their social media presence. Created by ceramic design artist Adi Nissani, the Foodography dishes have been crafted to make your food look as good as it possibly could on Instagram.