I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend with my 15 year old niece and a friend of hers recently, where I got a glimpse into a teenagers view on life and life’s experiences. I can sum up the way in which they view life in a few simple words: “Wait, someone needs to take a picture.”
When I was their age I was interested in photography as an art, but that is not the reason they wanted to take photos; their entire purpose was to share their moments with their world through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. It made me wonder if that was just a teenage ‘thing’ or is the rest of the world hooked on taking pictures? I started paying attention to all the posts on the social channels and I realized that it’s not a teenage thing; it’s a cultural shift due to technology and mobile devices.
Taking pictures is part of the everyday experience now. As food service operators, we need to embrace this new world and know that the experience is not just about the environment, it is about how the environment can be shared. Is your operation ready to be part of that experience? Here are five things that are imperative to putting the odds in your favor for an experience worthy of a photo:
1. Brand Marks
Do you have your brand mark front and center? Do you have a photo friendly environment?
It is important that when these experiences are documented, your restaurant is front and center in the endeavor. You brand marks and placement are KEY. Do you have a clear logo welcoming your guests into your restaurant? Do you have branded menus (and are they clean)? Are there unique decorations that identify your restaurant? If so, make sure they have a good light source. Remember that all of these items are key hot spots for taking pictures and documenting the event.
Back to my niece and her friend, we went to one of our favorite Wisconsin fish fry locations and they simply had to take a picture in front of the fish fry drive through….(yes, there is a fish fry drive through, brilliant)… but unfortunately for the restaurant, it was not branded. They shared that picture on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with hundreds of followers, and although the picture was great, the restaurant lost the opportunity for branding and did not get any recognition. Multiply that by all of your photo-snapping guests and the free marketing that is lost is staggering.
Is your food properly plated (even during the crunch of a crowd)? Don’t forget your drinks, even a perfectly poured beer is photo worthy these days.
It is important for food to “look good” on a plate. Presentation is the wow factor magnified by social and photos. Take the extra time to take an inventory of your menu and plating: are your dishes being presented in the best light possible? Are they picture-worthy? However, take caution here, as many restaurants are taking this to a whole new level in menu engineering by producing great looking dishes, but sometimes forget the most important part – the food must still be served at the right temperature and taste good. Lengthy plating paired with the time for guests to take photos can equal cold and soggy food.
Back to my niece… who knew that something as simple as corn on the cob was a picture worth taking? Apparently when you take a shot with butter dripping and shakers of extra flavor boosts with your best friend….it’s an event!
Cleanliness is the foundation for you ambiance. You can go to great lengths to get the right fixtures, have the exact lighting and create the best food, but if your restaurant neglects the foundation then “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so to speak. Don’t get caught being “that picture” on social.
The entrance to your restaurant it the start of the picture experience, make it a great by keeping your branding clean and visible, keep debris from the entrance and be sure to keep signs that don’t add value to your brand to a minimum; and watch those hand written signs!
5. Picture Favorable Staff
Give your staff the permission to help with the photos and take time to personalize the experience. If your guests want a picture, help them out and be sure it is the best picture for you and your guest. Take a shift meeting or employee meeting to go over the importance of cooperating and helping the guest fulfill their experience with photos. Embrace the new culture and be prepared.
Yep, I’m ending with a note about my niece. We gathered pictures of everything we ate, the fireworks, the cute boys on the boat next to us and jumping in the water together….it was a wonderful, well-documented weekend and introduced me to the new world of social sharing….a picture was worth a thousand words but with social sharing, it’s worth a million!