There are almost 215 million photographs on Instagram associated with the hashtag “food”. People are obsessed, it seems, with sharing their dining and cooking experiences.
A recent article in the Financial Times explained how restaurateurs are increasingly exploiting this trend by creating dishes and settings that appeal to their customers’ desire to capture something special – “photographs waiting to happen”, as the author of the piece puts it.
London based restaurateur Leonid Shutov, who not coincidentally used to run an advertising agency, understands this more than most.
As the owner of the popular Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard – famous for its “Press For Champagne” buttons – Shutov has invested in making his restaurant as Instagram friendly as possible, with whiter plates, clearer branding, and more attractive food presentations.
“We always had people photographing the table when it’s filled with food,” Shutov told the FT, “however, as soon as we changed to new plates, people got excited; we know we’ve done something right.”
It is not just high end restaurants that are consciously tailoring their offering to the Instagram generation.
Mexican themed fast food outlet Barburrito noticed how people were photographing their foil wrapped burritos, so they branded the foil.
Instagram is fascinating as a medium because it taps into something the Nobel prize winning Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman spoke about in a brilliant 2010 TED talk.
“We actually don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences,” Kahneman explained. “And even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories.”
Instagram serves as a way for people to curate the experiences they anticipate will become treasured memories. Rather than wait to discover a half forgotten faded photograph in a bureau drawer, Instagram enables us to add nostalgic filters, in real time, to experiences as they happen.
It is the pre-packaging of experiences for our future selves. And of course for our current friends, whom we might hope to impress with a perfectly lit photograph of a “Press for Champagne” button and some delicious food on a pure white plate, on a rainy night in Soho.
A version of this post originally appeared in the Lancaster Guardian, where I write a weekly column.