Foodie Flashers

There is a vast difference between the quality of photos taken by my mother and a friend of mine who is a professional photographer. While I would happily tag myself in a photo taken by Nicole, a photo by my mother would require some vetting before seeing the light of day on my Facebook page.

With the proliferation of social media and the popularity of sharing food photos while dining out with friends, (There were more than 1.4m photos tagged with #foodpics on Instagram at the time this blog was published), restaurant managers are feeling the same anxiety about what is being shot, shared and tagged in the world of social media.

To protect their professional image, many restaurants are implementing and enforcing a ‘no food photo’ policy. But is this the right way to go about it?

Picture this.

The diner has their phone at the perfect angle ready to capture their incredible meal. The waiter interrupts and asks them to put the phone down and refrain from taking the photo. No matter the quality of food, service and atmosphere, being told to put their phone away could cause the diner to feel disappointed about the experience.

We all know the old adage of ‘even bad press is good press’, however, I think what must be remembered is that people wouldn’t be taking a photo of their meal unless they believed it would inspire envy in their social network.

I personally don’t expect photos I see on social media to be masterpieces and there are a number of cafes which were brought to my attention, and which I visited, based on photos shot, shared and tagged on Instagram.

Rather than looking for the negatives in the situation, restaurant managers should consider ways to turn it to their advantage.

One possibility is to open accounts and search hashtags (#) in the restaurant’s name. Repost and thank those customers who make an effort to take impressive shots and help to create a buzz for your brand among their friends.

Before the decision is made to enforce a ‘no food photo’ policy, there are a number of points to consider:

• How will the policy be communicated to guests? Signage, highlighted by their waiter, or when the occasion arises?

• What message will be communicated to diners? Is the photo ban due to disruption to other tables, poor quality of photos taken on mobile devices, or an attempt to help keep you connected with their friends at the table?

• Does your venue suit a policy such as this? While many customers will not be shocked by this policy at an expensive venue with a three-month waiting list, implementing it at a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop might raise some eyebrows.

• And finally, how will the policy be enforced? It only takes one event or incident to turn a customer’s experience from amazing to average. The situation needs to be approached in a way that will prevent the restaurant receiving a scathing review on Facebook.

Positive word of mouth is priceless for businesses, and with the growth of social media, its spread is almost endless. In the end, implementing a new policy is at the discretion of the management, however, it must be asked if it will be worth it.