They’re often dismissed as food porn, but those Instagram photos posted on some chefs’ feeds do more than make viewers drool—they actually drive customers to the restaurant. According to Zagat’s latest National Dining Trends Survey, 75% of those diners who browse food photos say they have chosen a place to eat based on social media. While celebs like David Chang, Thomas Keller and John Besh have huge Instagram fan bases and hardly need photos to drum up business, these five slightly less famous chefs and restaurateurs know how to post pics that lure hungry followers all the way to the front door.
Chef & the Farmer
Chef Vivian Howard reinforces her restaurant’s hyperlocal approach with photos that show off the menu’s seasonal bounty and sustainability stance. There’s lots of tempting, rustic-looking food, ranging from tomato pie with charred vegetables to seared wreckfish with sea island peas and roasted corn ice cream. But the images are not limited to pretty plates of food. Also posted are pictures of baskets of produce arriving at the restaurant, the kitchen team prepping dinner and chef Howard harvesting herbs from the garden. The comments indicate that viewers are drawn into the action and are eager to visit.
Barrel and Ashes; Otium
Formerly Thomas Keller’s chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, Hollingsworth set out on his own in 2012 and launched two restaurants in LA. With its open kitchen and flowing indoor-outdoor space, Otium is a social restaurant and Hollingsworth’s Instagram feed markets that vibe. Pig roasts, communal plates of casual food, and staff and guests enjoying themselves share posts with what one fan describes as the “swoon-worthy” food.
The extreme close-ups of baked goods and desserts make them hard to resist, and when a photo is posted, many followers are ready to make a beeline for the closest Flour Bakery location, according to their comments. Chang posts a good number of ingredient and technique images, too, providing mini lessons to aspiring bakers.
The Greenhouse Tavern; Noodlecat
Chef Sawyer’s feed has its share of mouthwatering menu items, but viewers also relate to his laser focus on ingredients. They say they want to join in his “foraging adventures” and get excited when he posts the latest mushroom he’s picked or Ohio tree peaches he’s sourced. Video demos further engage followers. Through his Instagram account, Sawyer also is a big booster of Cleveland, elevating the city as a food destination.
This Instagram account is styled more like a blog than a picture gallery, with many of chef Prueitt’s photos designed to tell a story. She relates how she came to create a salmon dish, for example, or posts an enticing photo of stracciatella along with the recipe for the dish. We see her writing a menu in Tartine’s kitchen and then posting images of a decadent dessert she’s serving that night. Prueitt is an engaging storyteller and followers express a desire to get more involved in her stories by visiting her restaurant.