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Instrascran: How social media is changing the way we eat

Can you imagine, even 10 years ago, taking a photograph of your nan’s Sunday roast, immediately heading down to Snappy Snaps to utilise their one-hour processing service, and then rushing to your neighbour’s house to show them your nan’s Yorkshire puds in all their glory? No, me neither.

And yet it has become so normal for us to share pictures of our food with complete strangers that we barely even notice it any more.

Millennials worldwide let the camera eat first, desperate to show the universe the latest feast for the eyes, with over 130k food photos being posted on Instagram every single day in the UK alone. You’d be hard pushed to go into a smart restaurant or trendy bar now and not see someone brandishing their iPhone as soon as their food arrives and before they’ve even tasted it.

It’s become so normal in fact, that food trends are now actually swayed by what people post online – we wouldn’t have arty lattes, smoothie bowls, freakshakes or the cronut, for example, without Instagram. Restaurants and bars are now designing whole interiors, dishes and drinks with ‘gramming’ in mind.

We love to share our food and not in the physical sense. Most of us who share our meals online are absolute amateurs when it comes to photography, but wade through a quagmire of filters and editing tools and even the most basic dish can become an aesthetic delight. The Waitrose food and drink report states that one in five Brits have shared a food photo online in the past month, usually accompanied by several hashtags such as #foodporn, #instagood and #delicious.

There’s also serious cash to be made in beautiful food, and it’s a two-way street. Get the right online ‘influencer’ into your restaurant, posting pictures of your food to their legions of followers, and they’ll be queuing round the block within hours. Become the influencer, and you’ll not only be invited to dine at the world’s finest eateries, but you’ll be paid to do so. One such influencer is lifestyle blogger Em Sheldon from Leeds. Em has amassed a following of almost 83,000 followers of her Instagram page and regularly posts photographs of food she’s eaten in hip restaurants across the globe. Em told us: “I always take photos of my food when I’m out, I can’t help it. If the meal looks good, I love to document it, as sad as that may sound. It means I can share it with my followers, and they can go there too. I must admit, I have also been known to choose a place to eat based on the photos posted of the food on Instagram, which again seems sad, but it means I can get great content and recommend Instagram-worthy places, which is what a lot of people are looking for these days.

“Restaurants are definitely picking up on the fact that millennials, like me, want to eat in nice looking places with nice looking food and a lot are now opting for Instagrammable features, such as good lighting and marble tables. They know it will result in lots of free promotion on various social media channels. Obviously though, substance also counts. My favourite restaurant is the least Instagram-friendly place in the world, but I’ll keep going back as the food is so good. These are often the best places.”

So what food trends are we going to see in 2018? “Latte art is still a big one,” Em said, “and to be honest, the designs and ideas are just getting more and more elaborate. Beautiful acai bowls full of fresh, nourishing ingredients make you want to adopt a healthy diet and gin cocktails are becoming a very big deal!”

It seems that word of mouth is still the the most influential way of gaining customers, it’s just that now it is largely online-led discussions with strangers rather than a recommendation from someone you know, particularly with twenty – and thirty-somethings with a bit of money in their pockets.

Em’s Insta-worthy eateries

Betty’s Tea Room, Harrogate
It’s an oldie but a goodie – you simple can’t beat an afternoon tea at Betty’s for nostalgic pictures harking back to a bygone era.

Issho, Leeds
A stunning rooftop restaurant and bar in Victoria Gate. Japanese and sushi made to perfection and served beautifully.

Angelica, Leeds
Elaborate and bold cocktails along with beautiful brunches and panoramic views that will have your friends and followers desperate to go along too.

Pintura, Leeds
Pintura literally means ‘work of art’ in Spanish and this place is inspired by the food-crazed Basque region in Spain. Great gin collection in a dedicated basement gin bar and you can sit outside with traditional Spanish tapas.

Cielo Blanco, Leeds
A relaxed and social dining experience, Cielo Blanco offers the most ‘grammable Mexican sharing boards.

Crafthouse, Leeds
Beautiful in every way, particularly its marble tables.

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