3 March 2013

How can you tell if people are enjoying a meal? By the click of an iPhone of course!

You used to be able to tell the quality of a good restaurant by the volume of the conversation or the scraping of empty plates. These days, there’s a technological indication- people taking photos of their plates using their iPhones (other smart phone devices are available).

The other week, for example, I had supper with some colleagues at a restaurant near Swindon called The Pear Tree at Purton. I’d been to the restaurant before and knew it was good so I’d recommended going there.

The food, as always, was exquisite. To start, I had Marinated, Smoked Beef Fillet, Sweet Potato and Coriander Salad followed by Steamed Paupiettes of Lemon Sole, Salmon and Lemon Grass Mousseline, Vegetable Spaghetti. It was absolutely delicious and looked pretty as a picture too.

My delicious meal at the Pear Tree at Purton

My meal was so pretty in fact that I decided to take a photo and to my surprise, my colleagues followed suit! All three of the ladies at the table took snaps of their food (the only man present refrained!)

Now, I quite often capture shots of my food as it helps me to remember what I have eaten so I can write about my dining experiences on my blog. I also frequently photograph really nice wine so that I have a record of the label enabling me to buy it again in the future. But I'm fairly sure not all my colleagues have blogs, or are as obsessed with wine as me.

So why do people do it? Simple. Because they want to share their positive dining experiences with their friends and family through social media. It’s not really a surprise since people share photos of their holidays and parties, so it makes sense that they should share photos of other things they have enjoyed such as really nice meals. It acts as a sort of rating of restaurants – see how great the food looks, you should definitely eat here.

I think more restaurants should take advantage of this. If people take photos at their tables, they are more than likely to end up on Facebook, probably with the venue name tagged, acting as a recommendation to friends.

Some of the bottles of wine I've photographed in restaurants over the years.

Some backward restaurants are missing a trick though by not allowing diners to take photos at all. I was in The Ivy in London recently and the table next to me were enjoying a special 50th birthday meal. They wanted to take photos to document the special occasion and you could tell they were excited to be eating in the famous Ivy. However, the waiter soon put a stop to their fun, stating that house policy is there should be no photographs taken in the restaurant.

Presumably this is to protect their celebrity diners and stop them from getting bothered by cameras during their meals. It’s just a shame for the other customers, as their enjoyment is outweighed by a desire to protect celebrity. And, I think they are missing an opportunity for people to talk about the venue on social networks.

I personally love it when my friends post pictures of food they have eaten or even cooked themselves on Facebook. Frankly, it makes a change from the sea of baby photos that seem to populate my timeline. I’d much rather drool over a plate of delicious looking cuisine or a cherry red glass of the strong stuff.