RESTAURANT AESTHETICS = INSTAGRAM BAIT?
‘Bite Me, NYC’ is what is printed across the front of the holographic pastry box from Supermoon Bakehouse in New York. Saying that the box is ‘holographic’ might be an understatement — it is glossy and iridescent, but more importantly, when the afternoon Lower East Side sunlight hits it at the right angle the box radiates of every property that constitutes something as ‘Instagram bait.’ The highly photo-worthy design of the to-go pastry box is no coincidence. When one is waiting in line to purchase a bi-coloured croissant, the neon sign with the matching tagline, the pink quartz display table, and the concrete walls all prove that this bakery’s design elements were very much intentional.
In the last couple of years, Instagram has been the epicentre of trends in food and beverages. it’s now de rigeur to take photos of your meal and post them to social media. Restaurants behind unicorn, galaxy, and mermaid foods often see lines around the block after images of their offerings go viral. Now, some entrepreneurs are taking this idea of Instagram bait to the next level in hopes of inspiring more photos snapped of their restaurant. Instagram has started to weave its way into restaurant design. Entrepreneurs are commissioning neon signs bearing cheeky double entendres (ex. ‘I got baked in San Francisco’ courtesy of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse), using wallpapers adorn with pineapples and tropical plants, and embedding floor tiles that resonate with #ihavethisthingwithfloors — all in the hopes that their guests will share them on social media.
Why does it matter if photos of a restaurant gets shared on social media? The people behind San Fran’s highly instagrammed restaurant Media Noche says that the restaurant’s early social media success has attracted tourists from as far away as China and Japan. These tourists have researched deeply, they have geotagged photos saved, and they enter the restaurant saying ‘I want that for my Instagram’ with the average guest taking pictures for 10 minutes before ordering anything. Media Noche also drew visits from an army of San Francisco’s Instagram influencers, who promoted the restaurant to tens of thousands of followers. It may be obnoxious to some, but it’s free advertising for the restaurant.
Designing a restaurant or product based on “instagrammability” is not a phenomenon exclusive to large cities like NYC and SF — we see it locally in Vancouver as well. A smoothie joint that opened here last summer is no regular café serving up açai bowls and raw food options. Besides serving up foods and drinks that warrant a #cleaneats hashtag, this café is also equipped with three large indoor swings for patrons. As one of the first places to have indoor swings in the eatery, the headlines that followed its opening were less about the food offerings, but more so about all the getting a cute selfie on said swings before others. A quick google search of this café will show you article headlines including:
“This North Van cafe has indoor swings and people are seriously pumped about it.”
“This Vancouver Cafe Has A Swing Set Inside And It’s Actually The Cutest Thing Ever.”
One of the first articles in the google search says patrons of the café go to the eatery “to get the Gram and avoid Insta FOMO.” The next article in google queue shows 4 photos of the café, with 3 of the photos being of the swings. A quick geotag search shows that the swings are one of the main attractions of the cafes, even after 6 months of being open.
Back to NYC. Walk 13 minutes from Supermoon Bakehouse to Cha Cha Matcha and you will see two lines. The first line is where you buy your matcha beverage with an accompanying millennial pink cup sleeve. The second line however, is the line that might be puzzling to some. It is a line for everyone who wants to take a photo in front of the neon sign that says ‘Matcha Gracias’ in cursive at the back of the store. When you hold your drink in front of the sign (in portrait mode via your iPhone 8), you will notice that the sign will create the perfect backlit situation for a photo that will warrant at least 100 likes when you hashtag it with #matchalatte. When you step back, you notice a girl beside you aiming for a similar shot. You are initially bothered by the sameness of it all but you post it anyways to prove that you braved the line to achieve this photo and $5.50 matcha coconut latte that has been rendered lukewarm because you spent a tad too long acquiring the shot. You share the photo with your x-amount of followers and in less than 10 minutes, a follower comments ‘omg, that is so cute! I can’t wait to go there!”
Written by: Amy Ho – constellationinspiration
Photography: Rich Won