Life & Style

Welcome to the Instagram Era of Dining #FoodPorn

person taking picture of their food (burger)

Instagram has become an incredibly powerful tool since its launch in 2010. The rise of the ‘influencer’ has seen hundreds of thousands of travel, fashion and lifestyle bloggers take advantage of the platform and turn their image into a full time job.

While food blogging has always existed, it has also emerged and transformed as a powerful business tool, with many hospitality businesses using it as an important marketing device. Likewise, it has also lead to the rise of #foodporn, and seen the dining experience enter the Instagram Era; a place where the camera is now as central to the experience as the food.

There are more than 219 million photos tagged #food on Instagram and over 215 million tagged #foodporn. People have always loved eating, and photographers have always recognised food as an art-form. Now, people are obsessed with photographing what they eat. This is something that professional chefs have clued onto – and are now catering for.

A chef’s image of a new dish posted to their own account, their restaurants’ or their media influencers’ account, can cause reservations to spike. Crafting enticing dishes with daring ingredients and thoughtful presentation add to the experience and generate momentum for people to post their photos on social media. In some cases you’ll end up with hundreds of the same dish plastered across your feed – and that’s the goal, to create awareness and recognition of the restaurant.

The Tiny Giant, located in the inner Sydney suburb of Petersham, is the perfect example of this. Their waffles, topped with Persian fairy floss, have been making the rounds on Instagram since the restaurant opened its doors last year, and is proof that Instagram as a marketing strategy works. The dish is still circulating on social media

A post shared by Loretta (@wheresmy_dang_food) on

For Four Pillars Gin co-creator Stuart Gregor, “it’s no longer just a cute thing people do to share nice pictures, it’s a real way to drive people to business.”

Kylie Kwong’s strategy of posting consistent, varied content is vital to the continued success of her business and ensures she stays fresh in the mind of her clients.

“I am very strategic about my Instagram feed, it’s an integral part of my business life. I think carefully about what I’m going to post every day. The restaurant market has never been so competitive, so it’s important to constantly engage and maintain a certain energy.”

In the digital era, Instagram and social media are word-of-mouth marketing, and can really make or break a chef’s rep and clientele. The only thing worse than a bad review is a bad picture.

Of course, there’s the risk that diners, and even chefs, will favour extravagant dishes that may be, if not boring, then average. So much emphasis is put on the way a plate looks. Yet, some of the most delicious and popular dishes going around are not a feast for the eyes – classic French onion soup is a wonderful thing, though not terribly attractive.

As with all things, balance is key. The best chefs realise the food comes first, but it isn’t lost on them that appearance is, to many diners, just as important as flavour.