Everyone makes a joke about how food is meant to be photographed, and if you didn’t take a picture of your meal to upload to Instagram, did you even really have it? In fact, there are whole Instagram profiles dedicated to posting pictures of delicious looking, or well-presented food, and heaven forbid your date eats a garlic dough ball before you’ve managed to construct the perfect flat lay. But what effect is this constant food-based photography having on restaurants?
Before delving into the bad, it is important to address the good. Not everything about Millennials taking pictures of their meals is bad; after all, it is great free marketing for bars and restaurants. In fact, it is this popularity that leads to a lot of the negatives for food establishments.
Aesthetics over taste
Social media fans will do anything for the perfect shot. If that means queuing outside of a bakery for a unicorn cronut, or eating an avocado burger when they really want a Big Mac, so be it. Chefs have admitted that at times they have had to compromise on the taste of items, in order to create the next big viral sensation. After all, you can’t taste food through your phone (yet!), and if an overly fancy milkshake is what gets people in the door, that’s how business is running.
Again, a venue that works with the aesthetics of a blogger’s Instagram theme is going to get a lot of attention. Businesses do not have an endless supply of money, and so they have to look at investing in what is going to get them the best returns. Whereas once, it was all about word of mouth recommendations and the emphasis was on high-quality dishes, good portion sizes and great customer service, now it’s about fairy lights, unique light bulbs and mediocre dishes plated quirkily.
When you are trying to enjoy a nice meal, it can be pretty distracting to see someone stood up, hovering over their dish, while someone else shines the light of their phone torch in just the right way. This is even more annoying if the people doing it are your friends, and frankly, you just want to eat your meal, not worry about moving the water jug in case you ruin the symmetry of their flat lay. Some restaurants have requested that diners eat the food, rather than photograph it, and this has caused some uproar, but honestly, doesn’t it sound fun to eat your food before it gets cold, and without having to rearrange the whole table?!
We can keep taking pictures of everything we do, but chances are, we will miss out on the actual moments. If we keep making Instagrammability the main thing we want from our meals, then we will have to start sacrificing taste. What’s the point in food that looks good on your carefully curated feed, if it is unfulfilling and an hour later you have to go through a drive through to get something a lot less ‘grammable? Vote with your forks, put your camera away.