Doing it for the ‘gram: restaurant design dictated by the craving to be shared on social media

Business Insider UK found that millennial’s strong preference for convenience means they eat out more than any other generation; choosing a meal out over home cooking once every fortnight. With this generation also making up the highest proportion of social media users, snapping pictures at a restaurant has become a part of modern social culture.

Whether you’re a supporter or a cynic, shareability is ingrained in the success of a modern restaurant. User-generated images are like gold dust; acting as a testimonial, they endorse a restaurant’s reputation and provide content for them to re-share. With publications like TimeOut handing-out awards for ‘Most Instagram-Worthy Cocktail’ and ’25 Most Instagrammable Places in NYC’, photo-friendliness is undoubtedly important.

Filter and follow

With 1 billion users worldwide Instagram holds great power; filtering into every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. Often, checking restaurants’ tagged and posted pictures is the first step in picking where to go. According to a study by Zizzi, millennials spend five days a year browsing food photos on Instagram and 30% of these users avoid a restaurant if it has a weak Instagram presence. Combined with the popularity of the platform, this heavy reliance on visual reviews means mentions and tags can make or break a restaurants success.

‘Grammer time

Instagram acts as free advertising, forming a mood board of trustworthy testimonials for millennials to examine. Build something Instagrammable and you can bet it will gather momentum on social media, driving footfall as a result. Working with Paperwhite Studio, Jack’s Wife Freda, an NYC-based bistro, was transformed into an Instagram hot-spot which ultimately propelled its income.

Founder of the studio, Lauren Moyal, helped the five-year-old business evolve into the busy restaurant it is today. Telling Grub Street that Jack’s wasn’t designed for Instagram she said, “It just happens that Instagram was picking up around the same time, and Maya [the owner] was posting shots of the restaurant, and it allowed our work to be more public.” The American-Mediterranean restaurant was even listed in Buzzfeed’s food Instagram accounts to follow and now boasts 132k+ followers on Instagram.

Responsible for putting Jack’s Wife Freda back on the map, Moyal realised the true power of Instagram and now ensures it’s an integral part of each creative brief.

Feast your eyes on this

At new-wave restaurants, aesthetics contribute just as much to the popularity as the food itself. Hannah Collins, a boutique restaurant designer, told Refinery29 “If you can create something that people can snap really beautiful photos of that attract and are emotionally irresistible, then you have created a hook.” It basically creates something aside from the food that makes people want to visit them instead of competitors.

Photo thyme

Michael Chernow, owner of Seamore’s in Manhattan, saw the influence of Instagram and jumped on board. In an interview with Tasting Table about the design of his restaurant he said, “Instagram was absolutely, 100 percent taken into account…. when I was thinking about surfaces at Seamore’s, I wanted to implement those backdrops as potential backdrops [for photos]”. The plain white plates act as “a blank canvas, and the food is the actual show piece,” this way it’s more likely they will be shared on Instagram.

But it doesn’t stop at surfaces and crockery. Bellota installed 25 custom lamps at their bar, allowing diners to tweak the mood so they can take can that Instagram-worthy shot. Ryan McIlwraith, Bellota’s head chef, told The Verge that they can be titled or turned 180 degrees – “It turned out these lamps were perfect for it.”

To be or not to be?

Despite its ability to publicise, not all restaurateurs are supporters; Leandro Carreira, chef at Londrino, pointed out to The Independent that they didn’t consider social media when designing the restaurant, they just wanted it to be an enjoyable place to visit. “We want to build a neighbourhood restaurant, where people become regulars and don’t just come to tick a photo off their list.” Regardless, the venue still acquires ample Instagram coverage. Patrick Jonelle, a professional Instagrammer, told Smithsonian “Even if something isn’t designed especially for social media I think there’s always an emphasis on ‘how does this render digitally?”