Restaurants are apparently encouraging people to Instagram photos of their food now, as long as they can take a decent photo without blinding other diners with flash. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that a few restaurants are even offering free food incentives — some even come specially plated by the kitchen so they're "really pretty" — for people with a "certain" amount of followers, "often 500 to 1,000." (That does not seem like very many followers?)
The freebies are typically something the average customer wouldn't be able to order. For example, Italian restaurant 83 1/2 in New York City offers a free off-the-menu hazelnut-and-espresso dessert to Instagrammers who order a meal. At Chicago's Trenchermen, weekend brunch-goers who can show they have more than 1,000 followers receive a Klappertaart, a Dutch-influenced Indonesian pastry, gratis.
David Gerzof Richard, professor of social media and marketing at Emerson College in Boston, tells the WSJ, "While diners tend to rant about bad meals online, the beautiful pictures often seen on Instagram tend to overshadow any criticisms users may post." But does that mean that a restaurant with shitty Yelp reviews can be saved if lots of people post appetizing photos of its food on Instagram? Eh, no one pays attention to Yelp anyway.
It's unclear if this means that taking pictures of food is no longer a mental illness, or if restaurant food photo-takers care more about getting a good shot than the people they're eating with, but one thing is for sure: Photographers are definitely starting to take advantage. In Dedham, MA, Whole Foods has teamed up with local photographer Brian Reynolds to offer iPhone food photography courses. So go forth and food porn away, food paparazzi — just try not to get arrested.