Restaurateurs: how Instagram can sell your food

Every food student has been taught that dishes need to be a feast for the eyes before they can be a feast for any other part of you. But creating Instagram-quality food is becoming more important than ever before.

It’s probably not what any professional chef wants to hear, but the quality of your food can no longer be judged by taste alone. That’s been the case for as long as there have been restaurant critics, but first Trip Adviser and now Instagram have become the places where restaurants are discovered, long before anyone ever gets to sample a forkful of your food.

That presents a problem for most chefs, however, because their expertise lies in cookery, not photography. So I was fascinated to read a Tasting Table article recently about how the Culinary Institute of America is offering Instagram classes for chefs.

Why Instagram matters

If that sounds a little odd, it shouldn’t. 60% of restaurants and cafes fail in the first year. In 2015, 1200 went bust in the UK. If you assume that, in the vast majority of cases, the people opening the establishments know the business end of a spatula, then the reason for their closure won’t have been because they can’t cook. But it could well have been that they simply didn’t get their message ‘out there’.

The professional shot

Of course, slapping any old image of your food on Instagram won’t help either. It needs to be correctly composed, carefully lit and professionally shot (I don’t mean actually shot by a professional commercial photographer – although I’ll happily accept – but the quality needs to be professional level). Without the right imagery, any restaurant can unwittingly send customers away, because what looks great on the plate won’t look as good in an image unless you prep it properly.

Senses working overtime

As a corporate photographer I’ve covered a large number of food and food product shoots and it’s important to remember that when it comes to the image, a potential customer doesn’t have their other senses to help out. Smell and taste and even the sound of a sizzling skillet can all make up for any slight inconsistency in the look of a dish.

But on Instagram, the look is all there is, and when you see the lengths to which some restaurants are now going to portray their food not simply as a damn good meal but a lifestyle choice, you can see why it matters so much to create Instagram imagery that really pops.

So, if you don’t feel like attending an Instagram photography course, get in touch with a professional commercial photographer who can make your food look, well, good enough to eat.

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