It wasn’t long ago when chefs, local restaurant owners, and cpg companies, relied on food magazines, cookbooks, and TV (if given the opportunity), to showcase food and eating establishments. Today, Instagram is the fastest growing social network and #food is the 24th most popular hashtag. Data from a recent Brand Watch report reported Instagram having over 400 million active users and growing from their 30% penetration of internet users. Posts tagged with a location receive 79% more engagement than posts that do not, and pizza is the most posted food behind sushi and steak. These are just a few of the reasons why it is not surprising why this platform is so appealing to food companies and restaurant owners. Even when companies have products or services that have nothing to do with food, they still find the food trend useful for boosting awareness of their brands. Cosmopolitan, for example has learned to gain greater engagement by incorporating food in their latest news stories. It’s hard to pinpoint when it all began, but what started out as a few Buzz feed and you tube how to’s has exploded into a social media “foodie” craze.
So, what happens when people start caring more about what their food looks like vs. what it tastes like? What about when restaurant owners need to start planning restaurants designed with photo worthy backdrops and worrying about food temperature after social media photo shoots? Restaurants are now even designing their spaces with social media in mind, incorporating photo booths for the “foodie” experience. They want to provide natural lighting and a backdrop that’s ideal for good photos. “Instagram culture and social media definitely play a big role in food culture these days. I do think overall it’s a good thing, especially for small business owners who may not have the broad marketing capabilities of traditional media, but it can be frustrating when we work hard to put together a good dish that ends up sitting on the table too long. Some dishes are designed to be eaten quickly which is one of the reasons we don’t do take out at our restaurant. When the noodles sit too long in the broth, they expand and absorb the liquid which changes the consistency and taste”, says Chef and owner of Ichicoro Ramen, Noel Cruz.
Number one on the top ten Instagrammed restaurant list, according to Instagram, is Café Du Monde. The sugar covered beignets are the main attraction at the 24 hour New Orleans, French inspired market. Half of the list is dessert inspired venues with California Donuts coming in at number ten and Black Tap hot on their tail for the Instagram famous 1,600 calorie shakes.
According to research done by Science Direct, there is strong evidence pointing to the persuasive nature of social influence and the effect it has on obesity. Do all these fruit loop, jelly filled, doughnuts in shakes make us want to eat unhealthy? During a recent visit to California I couldn’t help but think about the impact of this as I scrolled through my Instagram feed looking for the latest local food craze. I walked over to a famous Instagram frenzied restaurant and examined the line out the door with customers walking into the streets holding spaghetti filled grilled cheeses and posing for pics. As I turned to leave an overbearing smell came from around a street corner with flies circling a garbage can. Were all of these “foodies” buying food just to throw it away? Are all of these pretty, skinny, Instagram food bloggers taking one bite for a picture and tossing it? I can only hope that the predicted healthy food trends of cooking with protein powder, matcha, oatmeal 2.0, and crazy spiral shaped veggies will stay around for a while.
To the “foodie” friend who takes too long snapping a picture before we can eat, “Let’s Relax”. Thank you IKEA for this brilliant ad making light of the food picture taking frenzy. Thoughts?