When social media networks became rapidly popular in the late 2000s and users started to document the small moments in their daily lives, the people who scoffed at these new tools would often say something like, “I don’t need to know what someone ate for breakfast.”

Well, they were wrong — big time. Food and restaurant posts have become a popular topic for social media content. On Instagram, hashtags for #food, #foodporn, and #foodie have been used hundreds of millions of times. Humans need to eat and they are constantly searching for food that’s unique and restaurants that provide an interesting experience. They want motivation to leave the comfort of the couch — where they order delivery from their phone — to a venue that has culinary flair and an environment worth sharing with their network.

It’s important for your restaurant to be part of this trend, especially during the pandemic, as a way to reach your customers. When your food and your space are photographed and shared on Instagram, it’s free third-party publicity for your venue. People tend to value the opinions of their personal network, so a photo of your restaurant is like an endorsement of your business to a network of hundreds of people. And when those people come in and share their experience online with their friends, it spreads the word even further.

However, not all restaurants are equal when it comes to shareable content. You need to take some steps to make your venue Instagrammable. Here’s a few ideas to get started.

1. Make your food photo-worthy

Social media users don’t just share any food pics online. The food has to be photo-worthy enough to attract attention from their followers. What qualities are they looking for?

Color: Food like vegetables, fruits, salads, cheese, colorful sauces, and desserts that have vibrant or unusual colors get attention from followers in their Instagram feeds (and tend to make stomachs growl).

Texture: Think about the chocolate cracks in a tray of brownies, the toasty cheese on a pizza, or the crispy crust on a fried chicken sandwich. Those details draw the eye up close to the food and make viewers feel like they’re right there at the table.

Plating and presentation: People love seeing interesting ways to serve food, like crazy milkshakes that are topped with a piece of cake, a knife sticking out of a burger or tall sandwich, colorful or elegant plates, beautiful charcuterie boards, or unusual containers like desserts in a cocktail glass.

Unusual food or trends: If you’re serving something that everyone’s talking about, your customers are going to order it, take pictures of it, and brag about it on Instagram. Trends like avocado toast, plant-based burgers, and over-the-top desserts like sundaes topped with cupcakes and ice cream cones are all over social media.

2. Create engaging cocktails

Food doesn’t get all the attention in Instagram pics. Cocktails are just as visually interesting in the feed, and these are the trends that get your drinks noticed.

Color: Cocktails come in just about every color in the rainbow. If you’re mixing up something that has vivid hues, it’s sure to be a hit on Instagram.

Interesting garnishes: A lime wedge or paper umbrella just won’t do anymore. Photo-happy foodies want to share photos of bloody mary bars with wild garnish choices like sliders, shrimp, pickles, and even ribs. Infused fruit or salt, herbed ice cubes, lollipops, flowers, gummy candies, or plastic toys are other possible Instagrammable choices.

Clever containers: Glasses are boring. Containers like light bulbs, inflatable flamingo coasters, vases, terrarium spheres, ceramic tiki or animal cups, hollowed-out pineapples and coconuts, beakers, and mini wooden barrels were made for social media sharing.

3. Give your space a makeover

A distinct design adds to a great overall experience for your customers and provides the perfect backdrop to capture Instagrammable moments. Try one of these designs to make your restaurant stand out.

Lighter colors: White walls with bright lights make for a much better background and will make the food and the people pop.

Interesting walls: Large murals, unusual art, and wallpaper with bright, colorful patterns are a magnet for selfie-takers and amateur group photographers.

Bright colors: Bold colors on the walls, furniture or decor accents are a favorite subject for Instagrammers.

Neon signs: A bright neon sign — whether it’s an inspirational quote or fun saying, an animal, or an object — will definitely get captured by a smartphone camera.

Plants: The trend of real or fake plant walls and flower walls has been around for a few years, and it’s still a popular backdrop for social media photos.

Follow the trends but make it easy for your customers

Even though there are more than one billion users on Instagram, they’re not posting photos every day. Remind them to do it when they’re visiting your venue.

Make sure you have signage in your restaurant or on tables that encourages visitors to follow you on Instagram and includes your Instagram handle so they’ll be sure to tag you and you’ll be able to see and engage with the posts. Some restaurants have also purchased a few smartphone accessories like selfie sticks, small tripods, lighting, or white backdrops for serious Instagrammers to make images look better. Or install professional ring lights in front of your Instagrammable areas to provide better lighting for photos.

Adding some of these ideas to your venue can help set the scene for a great photo, and a few simple steps can motivate them to do it right away. It gives your customers photos that their networks will notice and plenty of publicity for your restaurant.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue of Seated magazine.

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