Instead of fighting the growing trend of restaurant customers posting photos of their menu orders, Felipe Donnelly, owner of Cómodo, a four-month old Latin American eatery in Soho, New York, has embraced it, using the photos to create what is being called the first Instagram menu. Cómodo is spot-on as to why Instagram is a good fit for restaurateurs. After all, what better way to showcase your mouthwatering dishes than with a photo?
A growing trend
Plus, the use of Instagram—as of July 2012 there were a reported 80+ million user—promises only to increase, with Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of the photo sharing app this past April. Marketing savvy chefs/operators are also using Instagram as an inexpensive promotion tool, uploading pictures of food, yes, but also special events, happy patrons enjoying a meal, even charity events they sponsor. Adding a #hashtag makes the photos searchable on Twitter.
All the Instagram menu photos are shot by Cómodo's customers, who add the hashtag #comodomenu. A more traditional menu is also available—a good thing, since customers aren’t necessarily adding the name of the dish to their photo. The restaurant's Instagram menu features all the dishes being currently served, as well as some from the summer menu. Cómodo's Instagram menu has generated a lot of buzz, both inside and out the restaurant galaxy, and it’s not costing the owners a penny.
Here’s how some other restaurateurs are using the Instagram app:
1. Sean Brasel, chef/co-owner, Meat Market, Miami, South Beach’s sizzling contemporary steakhouse
How we use Instagram…
Chef/co-owner Sean Brasel and his team use Instagram regularly. "We use it to showcase our restaurant, dishes and cocktails to portray how beautiful food can look and to give guests an intimate connection with Meat Market. In addition we reach out and connect with guests and fans who snap pictures at Meat Market, furthering our relationship with them outside the restaurant." Their instagram handle is @MeatMarketMiami.
2. Bryan Moscatello, chef, The Storefront Company in Chicago, which personalizes and refines the popular "farm-to-table" concept to deliver a refined dish using modern processing techniques.
How we use Instagram….
Chef Moscatello, a former Food & Wine Best New Chef, uses Instagram several times a week to document his life in the kitchen. The app, located on both the chef’s iPhone and iPad, is used to showcase “menu development stuff, how we process items (we documented how we created our beet cured salmon), candid shots of the kitchen crew and charity events that we participate in. It has not had a measurable impact as of yet, but we are in the early developmental stages of our plan. I’m positive our service will build once we gain followers, which is one of our immediate goals.” Check out the photos @bmoscatello.
3. John Wells, Chef de Cuisine at Mas (Farmhouse) in downtown New York City, serving new American-French cuisine prepared solely using locally grown and sustainably-raised foods, and known for its extensive wine list and impeccable service in a cozy, rustic atmosphere.
How we use Instagram…
“We use most of my Instagram photos for our Twitter and Facebook account. The app is located on my iPhone. Most of us (at Mas) have our own Instagram accounts; we tend to "tag" Mas and push them to Facebook. I use my account for 80-90% of Mas photos @mattjohnfm on Instagram. I tend to use Instagram two-three times a few days of the week. I am uploading mostly new menu items and random plates we are proud of. I also enjoy posting photos of the staff and some decor photos. Customers haven’t really gotten involved with our Instagram, mainly because this is a personal account; we have yet to set up a Mas account. It hasn't had much of an impact on business that I can see; but when the photos are on our Facebook page, we have had people ask and inquire about a dish or recipe they may have read about.”