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5 ways Instagram is Transforming Modern Restaurant Design

Trendy restaurants are finding new ways to cater to a new crowd of diners.

BY RSVP August 28,2019

Dining has reached its Instagram era, when a camera is as central to the experience as a fork and anyone with a decent eye is making magazine-quality photos of food.

People have always loved eating, and photographers have long recognized the inherent beauty of food. But smartphones with pin-sharp lenses and apps that make editing as easy as swiping and tapping turn anyone into a food photographer. There are more than 178 million photos tagged #food on Instagram and 56 million tagged #foodporn. People are obsessed with photographing what they eat, something professional chefs are catering to—and learning from.

Restaurateurs now design restaurants with Instagram in mind. They skirt dim lighting in favor of bright overhead spotlights (which make for better pictures), choose menu items based on photogenics, and see everything from plates to plants through the lens of their smartphone.

How do they do it?

- With clean, light interiors

New openings are eschewing low lights and candles, for bright, bold designs and maximum “Instagrammability.”

The design is clean and might even be considered minimalistic if it weren’t for a few colorful accent pieces. 

- Hanging plants

Keeping with the theme of bright accents, plants are everywhere these days, and for good reason. Paired with clean, modern walls and light wooden tables, the green in the plants add color to the scene.

- Words on food

Instead of large signage, hip restaurants are turning to brand their food with words.

Sometimes this involves a literal brand, like at 28 North Gastropub, where both burgers buns and taco shells are singed with an iron brand in the shape of their logo.

- To-go bags

Even to-go bags are getting a re-branding. Shake Shack’s newly designed “big bags” are just the right size for Instagram. 

- Hanging overhead lights

Last but not least are the dominance of overhead spotlights above tables. Their importance cannot be understated.

Even more important though is that guests can snap photos of food without the flash. How many times have you heard influencers complaining about bad lighting? Most of the time they ask whoever’s at the table to use their phone’s flashlight to help, but even that can be hit or miss.

New dining rooms can be dark and traditional, but these spotlights make all the difference. It’s a small detail, but it’s crucial.

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