Food Photos - Best or Banned?
A large and growing number of people obsessively take and share photos of their food. Are restaurants in danger of losing out on the real customer experience of dining?
We've seen it many times, camera phone comes out, plate is turned, quick snap. I've done it myself- when i've wanted to capture something special.
But now, you increasingly likley to see a canon or nikon come out with flash, and for the budding blogger to fuss over replating the food to shoot it at its best. No doubt this ruins their enjoyment of your emal, as well as disturbing other diners and potentially runing their experiece with all the flash photography. And whereas the guy that pours salt all over your delicately flavoured dish ruins only for themselves, these obsessive camera-fanatics also intrude on your other guests. We already have the problem of diners having their phones ring while in your business and talking loudly in front of your other guests.
So what to do?
Each week, it seems more and more picture sharing sites appear and onto them goes photos of your latest creations. Around the world countless millions of us now feel so compelled to snap our dinner it seems that our ability to sit down and just enjoy a meal is in danger of being lost and with that the calm and polite environment of the dining room.
Platter, a new app that tags and shares food images, joins a host of social media that allow us to enthral the world with photos of what we eat. Leader of the pack, Foodspotting, has had more than 1million food images uploaded to its site in the past two years and others like Foursquare, fidd.me, SnapDish and Instagram are driving the trend. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are also awash with plates of food.
The author of food blog Travelling Hungryboy details his every meal from the plastic plate on the plane to five star dining in the States. From my own experience, with certain friends I know not to touch my plate until the regulations three of four photos of each dish are taken.
A UK survey in 2011 (survey on Online Food & Photo Sharing Trends) by digital marketing agency 360i sought to identify motivations from the food photographers. They found that 25% of those sharing food photos were simply publishing a food diary. "People see personal value in just sharing the simple moments in life," the survey found. A further 22% were pretty much "showing off" their culinary achievements, while others were simply recording a special occasion (16%), creating "food art" (12%) or capturing family or friends guzzling food (10%).
It all puts our industry in a challenging place. Having had a quick tour around the food snapping sites, most people documenting their dining shouldn't have been given a camera. We can all certainly understand why certain chefs, Heston Blumenthal for example, choose to ban cameras at their restaurants. I think this is certainly to ensure that the total sensory appoach to his creations isn't destroyed by happy snappers as well as he can afford to turn people away. But what about the rest of us?
I wouldn't mind a discrete snap or two to enable people to remind themselves of a great night- we encourage it if its a celebration and we're taking pictures of the happy couple and the chef! But we should clearly draw the line at the fake-professional who brings in camera equipment and intrudes on the experience of others.
But this should be done in a polite way, otherwise you'll have to read other articles about how to deal with poor reviews and bad social media ratings!!!
You could encoruage the new fad game in the US called the phone stack which claims to offer a solution to uncivilized interruptions to dinner caused by mobile phones. The idea is that after everyone has placed their order, phones are put on vibrate and stacked in the middle of the table and the first person to submit to temptation and answer one that rings must pick up the bill for the table. Maybe we have to go one better and include the first person to pick up a phone and photograph their plate? or why not have professional shots of your dishes created and loaded onto your site and encourage diners to use your professinoal shots?
So what are your thoughts on this?