Why use stock photos when there are better options?
A baby told me about your new pizza. Actually, it was a baby and her three-year-old brother. Samantha and Matt have over 113,000 followers, thanks to an Instagram account started by their food-blogger father, Mike Chau. After years of writing online reviews, Chau started posting photos of his adorable kids posing with mouth-watering meals — and both restaurants and their customers eat it up. The reaction one photo can drum up is incredible, with some customers simply flashing their phone screens at their servers while ordering without so much as glancing at a menu. I might not go that crazy, but visual formats are definitely my most trusted resources in finding out about new restaurants and pizzerias.
When my girlfriend and I are debating where to eat, photos help tip the scale. We usually consult a review site like Yelp but skip past all the ratings and go directly to the photo section. Ten words on a menu page will only tell me what’s in a dish; a picture can instantly make me hungry. I’m the kind of guy who takes a lap around the restaurant to see what everybody’s eating before I place my order. Seeing a dish is so big for me, I might even try something out of the ordinary based on how it looks on the table.
You have the power to control my perception of your food on your Web site and social media. You can hire a professional photographer, but I prefer amateur pictures because they’re honest. I don’t understand why anyone would post stock photos on their Web site or social media, but I see it all the time. You or one of your employees probably has a great camera built into your phone. Pull the pizza over to a table near the window so you can get some natural light, then take a few shots at different distances. Don’t be afraid to get close –– people love seeing details. Show your photos to a customer and ask which looks the tastiest. Done. You’ve got new tested content.
Sometimes it’s not just about the food. When I look at your pizzeria’s photos, I notice things beyond the crust and topping ratio. Does it look fresh? Are the portions too small? Is the dish plated in a fancy way or is this a casual joint with paper plates? Sometimes I’ll even notice the tiny details like the restaurant’s lighting or table setup.
Remember that customers don’t just come to your pizzeria for the food; they come for the entire experience. Sell us on the whole package with your photographic identity and we’ll go to you instead of the place down the street.
As important as photos may be right now, we’re already seeing digital interaction switch to video. Snapchat is hugely popular for short video clips; Instagram extended its clip limit to 60 seconds; and Facebook recently launched a function that lets users broadcast live video from their pages. If you thought photos were effective, buckle up. Nicola Mendelsohn, a VP at Facebook, recently claimed that the platform could be all video within five years. Keep that in mind as you amp up your visual game and show your best side to all the people who have been waiting for the right excuse to pay you a visit. And when in doubt, put a baby in the photo.
Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.