Outfit inspo, binge-worthy TV shows, dream holiday destinations… Instagram is influencing us on just about everything these days. Even down to how and where we eat.
I’m sure a lot of you can relate when I say eating out has become merely a pasttime, a way to catch up with friends – may I go as far as saying, a hobby? So, it was no surprise to me when I recently came across an article that said, “59% of millennials eat out at least 3 times a week”, and when we do, we love to share our food (not literally) on the gram. Sometimes I have to remind myself it isn’t a necessity to put up an Instagram story every time I go out for lunch or dinner. But that rarely stops me.
Before social media ran the world, people would have chosen where to pick up a coffee or meet their friends for dinner by a recommendation, a review they seen in the paper or wherever was most convenient for them. Or as my parents would say, “we just cooked at home, who needs to pay £14 for chicken on a bed of mash?” Yet, millennials obsession with pretty food and extravagant looking drinks has resulted in restaurants, cafés and bars completely changing their marketing strategies to make them as “Instagrammable” as possible. Some places have even gone as far as basing their menus around how their dishes will look in photos.
“Millennials today form more than 50% of our customer base and we have to give them what they want. Today’s customers want great food, great service and great photos.”
So, what are these places doing to ensure they are the chosen location for their customers next photosho – sorry, lunch.
Aesthetically pleasing plates
A bacon butty for breakfast or a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch doesn’t hit the spot like they used too. Now we want smashed avocado with that perfectly runny poached egg, a brightly coloured smoothie bowl and the most aesthetically pleasing salad bowl you could imagine. Who knew Instagram would improve healthy eating?
It doesn’t stop with the food though, that would be too easy. How are these dishes going to be plated up? On a white plate? Are you crazy? The plate must be rustic, oval rather than circular and have a funky vintage print. And gone are the days of a cappuccino in a mug – you’ll now get it in a beaker, and don’t forget the classic leaf design. Or a heart if you’ve caught the eye of the Barista.
Millennials are all about this, the more alternative the better. It’s exciting and I love seeing what little personal quirks restaurants and cafés have. But other generations don’t enjoy it as much. I’ve previously experienced an older customer display great distress as I served his burger on a “ridiculous” wooden slate, and demanded I changed it over to a plate, as his wife demands her cappuccino was changed to a “normal cup” that she wasn’t going to “scald” herself with. Okay, you won’t get as many likes this way though.
Us millennials love a quirky place to sip our coffee or meet our friends for dinner and cocktails, so the effort restaurant and café owners put into their interior is pretty important. You can bet if I’m in a cool café with a quirky quote on the wall it’ll feature on my Instagram story… and none of my followers will be surprised.
Back in the day a few nice tables (or booths if they were feeling adventurous) with pristine white tablecloths and lighting that gave a nice ambience generally made a happy customer. Whether it looked good in photographs was not a restaurant owners concern. Now, they must put great thought and effort to ensure they have mesmerizing interior, an array of furniture, lighting that’ll produce insta-worthy photos and quirky quotes on the walls that will attract customers and boost social media presence. If anything, this is equally as important as the food on our plates.
Before the owners of Media Noche, (one of the most popular cafes in San Francisco), opened their first café they gave their interior designer one simple instruction –
“we want it to be instagrammable.”
And it worked out pretty well. If you search their location on Instagram you’ll see thousands of peoples posts from their visit to the stylish café, and most of them are of the interior rather than the food.
Another café that understands the importance of interior and visuals is Bills.
“As a social channel, Instagram has always been our most natural fit. Bill’s is such a visual brand – from the food to the restaurant décor and these two aspects are clearly big reasons why people come to us.”
Said Head of Marketing Jack Carey. And he’s not half wrong, after constantly seeing Bill’s on my explore page and the stories of my favourite influences, I was first in Bill’s for Saturday Brunch when I visited London a few months ago. As seen on my Instagram story. Obv.
The food section of an Instagram explore page can be a dangerous place. Rainbow bagels, fully loaded fries and “freak shakes.” As we scroll in awe and think to ourselves, “I need to try that.” we are falling victim to the world of stunt food.
Stunt foods are menu items made purely for the novelty factor. I mean, why exactly did Starbucks think of releasing a unicorn frappuccino? Who knows what a unicorn tastes like? But one thing they know for sure that millennials sure as hell will purchase it, post it on their social media platforms and influence others to do the same, “71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference”, Even though a regular Cappuccino, with a shot of vanilla pls, would be much more enjoyable.
So there you have it. The next time you share a snap of an extravagant cocktail or burger that deserves BuzzFeed glory on your Instagram, you’ve done exactly what is expected of you and helped that particular business with their social media presence without even realising it.
Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire