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Visual Props: Nine Ways iPhone Pics = More Customers

“Phones before Forks” is the unofficial slogan of today’s dining experience. Most of us have at least one friend who screams “Don’t touch; let me get a picture first!” before, well, every course in a 10-course. (Others of us are guilty of being “that friend”… cough) Tableside food photography has become a firm fixture in […]

“Phones before Forks” is the unofficial slogan of today’s dining experience. Most of us have at least one friend who screams “Don’t touch; let me get a picture first!” before, well, every course in a 10-course. (Others of us are guilty of being “that friend”… cough)

Tableside food photography has become a firm fixture in today’s dining culture. Companies such as Foodspotting have sprouted up specifically around this phenomenon, while the #foodporn hashtag on Instagram has over 1.4 million contributions (not including hashtag variations).

Whether you know it or not, your customers talk about you all over the Internet. Whether it’s through a review on Yelp, a shout-out on your Facebook page, a starred rating on Google Places, or via hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, you probably want to know what they really think. The Internet is a channel where a picture really is worth a thousand words. Why talk about delicious drinks when you can share an image of the perfect sparkly cocktail? Or why complain about the sloppy curry dish when you can just post a picture of the brown-yellow blob?

(South Congress Cafe – Austin)

Customer engagement is a huge component of loyalty today. People who feel an emotional connection with a brand return again and again, bringing their friends with them. To that end, we’ve brainstormed nine quick ideas to help harness your customers’ love. The best part? Each of these strategies costs little to nothing.

1. Where possible, provide clean, even lighting in your dining rooms to help portray your food in the best light.

2. Plateware, utensils, napkins or placemats branded with your logo will make cameo appearances in food photos.

3. Of course, presentation is always key. Good design, beautiful texture and contrast, or unique construction typically make diners want to share their experience with their friends.

4. Blow up user-submitted food photos and display them on your walls. Add little cards with the dish name and the artist’s Instagram username, just like an art gallery would. Companies such as Canvas on Demand are great resources for printing high-quality Instagram images that don’t require framing. But be sure to ask for permission to use these images first; the last thing you need is a lawsuit from a disgruntled customer.

5. Hold a contest for “most artistic photo” of your signature dish. Customers can vote on the entries via your Facebook page.

6. Create an Instagram and Twitter hashtag for your restaurant’s brand. Pick a winner at random once a month to receive a free entrée. (Bonus idea: Set up an iPad – or large screen! – display of hashtagged pics.

7. Feature a scrolling gallery of client images on your website. Restaurants like Empire Napa do a great job of this.

8. Design a small flyer with some basic food photography tips. Include a tasteful logo of your brand + contact information at the bottom of the page. (One tip: Use a dining companion’s smartphone flash to help light entrees in dim environments)

9. Offer a free dessert, soft drink, or treat to clients who share their photos on Yelp or Google Places.

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