A controversial article entitled, “Restaurants Turn Camera Shy” was published in January 2013 by the New York Times that discussed a move by chefs across the country to put an end to their customer’s food photography habits. A woman dining at Momofuku Ko was yelled at by the chef for taking a discreet picture with her iPhone. “No Photos Allowed”, he said, scolding her from the open kitchen.
The argument is that it distracts from other diners enjoyment. Personally I have never been bothered by another table taking photos of their food. It isn’t as if they are tapping my shoulder and turning my table into a food porn photo shoot, so how is this ruining my night?
While chef’s might find it annoying to see poorly shot iPhone pics of their dishes on Instagram and the other social media sites – these photos help to increase their revenue. Food porn has the distinct storytelling power of titillation and suggestion while activating the individual’s fear of missing out (FOMO) and desire to be first.
Whether they are first to discover a hidden spot or to be seen at a hot new establishment, these are strong behavioral motivators that push diners to explore places they haven’t been, and Instagram and social media allow them to show off that THEY discovered it before their friends, colleagues, or that ex that they still compete with.
Additionally, for those risk averse, being exposed to social media photos of dishes or tasting menus that these people might otherwise avoid may help to motivate them to try something different. When people see their friends having positive experiences with something, they are more likely to try it themselves. This is reason enough for restaurants to relax and let people take a picture – it might just help sell that $250 per person tasting menu.