Pretty food pictures are key
Two chef friends were recently talking about what I imagine they always talk about — how to stay relevant in an increasingly fickle food world. The conversation was interesting because the two participants exist at opposite ends of the career spectrum. One is quite famous, with a history of successful restaurants, an active consulting career and some major television appearances under her belt. The other chef, whose restaurant experience is extremely limited, recently left the marketing world to open his first restaurant in New York City. They talked a bit about food, service and staffing, but the real takeaway for him was her suggestion that he “Instagram the hell out of everything” he’s doing.
The degree of surprise from this former marketer upon hearing that he needs to do a better job marketing his restaurant really hit me. I can only imagine how many pizzeria owners must be equally oblivious to the fact that, beyond producing quality food, they are in the marketing business. Judging by the pizzeria Instagram accounts I see every day, it’s clear that there’s a disconnect between what operators think their customers want to see and what we actually want.
On the simplest level, pretty food pictures are key. Instagram users scroll through their feeds, stopping at images that stick out. Stock images of pizza are a total no-no and flat coupon text is just boring. Give us real shots of your real food; if you pic it we will come. Your phone probably has a decent enough camera for on-the-fly posts, so there’s no need to go crazy with a professional setup. Just bring the pizza over to the window for some delicious natural light, turn off the flash and snap away. Watch out for shadows and make sure you’re in focus. No need to go crazy with filters, let the food do the talking. And make sure you tag local food accounts, press and colleagues in the image and tack on some hashtags to draw more people into your feed.
Instagram has some killer video options you absolutely must use. You can post a video up to 60 seconds in length, which appears in your followers’ feeds. Today I watched a pizza maker pull wet dough out of a storage bin after bulk fermentation. It was engaging because it showed me the degree of care he puts into his dough. After watching that video, I’m more inclined to recommend the pizzeria.
Even more interesting is Instagram’s Stories tool. This lets you post a series of one- to 15-second videos that vanish after 24 hours. Unlike the photos and videos that appear directly in your followers’ feeds, stories fill the entire device screen once clicked. You can embed text, filters and tags to these. If you have a business account with over 10k followers, you can even embed a link so users can purchase the delicious pizza they just saw in your post. Now that people are accustomed to seeing food shows on every network, they want to see what is happening in your kitchen.
In the case of my former marketer friend with a young NYC restaurant, he should be Instagramming the hell out of his gelato-making process. He should be Instagramming the hell out of his starter feeding routine. He should be Instagramming the hell out of the mill he uses to produce fresh flour every day. If you’re not blabbing about it on your menu, on your walls or in the press, nobody will ever know it’s happening.
Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.