At Lamour Sweets Studio in Rutland Gate, Chennai, The Bridgerton Story, a popular dessert is trending on social media. It’s a chocolate and hazelnut pastry served with tricks straight out of a molecular gastronomy textbook. When the smoky cloche of dry ice is picked up, phones are pulled out before spoons. Slow-motion videos, boomerangs and selfies fill the room. “But wait, let me take a picture first,” she echoes.
Photo Printed Coffee by Bistrograph | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Food theater has become an essential experience for restaurants to stay in the game. As well presented plates of food can be achieved even in the home kitchen, social media and the reach of molecular gastronomy have pushed the limits further. Just as milkshakes were once more flamboyant, coffee latte art is now covered with photographs printed on foam.
Restaurants are pulling out all stops to provide a picture-perfect experience. “Now they ask us to provide lighting that does not cast shadows on the plates when pictures are clicked,” says Vikram Singh Minhas, whose interior design studio designs the retail space.
Butterfly Cake by Lafayette | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Shweta Kishore of Lafayette in Nungambakkam, Chennai has been a recent beneficiary of this trend. Their cafe is known for its Butterfly Cakes, where fake butterflies fly out when the box is opened. “I got the message through an influencer, and the reel he made got 20 million views. It brought me a huge influx of customers,” says Shweta.
Restaurant chain Fruitbay has adopted a social-media friendly agenda in all aspects right from its name which is reminiscent of social media sensation ‘Saltbay’, to better remind the logo with similar colors to Instagram. The brand took advantage of the surge in interest in tsunami cakes and burgers (where a plastic ring containing cream or sauce is lifted to drench the cake or burger) with its viral offering, the ‘Berry Up’ yogurt cup. Here, berry puree, yogurt, and muesli are layered in a cup, which is then turned upside down onto a plate when it’s time to eat. There are over 10,000 reels and posts from social media influencers and other customers overturning this cup.
Berry Up by Fruitbae | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
“Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on using Instagram to grow our business. We sell over 150 Berry Up plates per day in each branch,” says Abdul Manaf, founder and CEO of Fruitbay, which has around 40 branches across the country and one in Dubai.
F House, Hyderabad by Vikram Singh Minhas | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
While photos of food and beverages take first priority in bringing about the most Instagrammable-dining experience, ambience plays a major role as well.
“We set aside a portion of the budget for art installations and exclusive ‘selfie’ walls where people can show themselves and their followers that they too have been to the most visited places,” says Vikram.
They say that earlier the trending theme was an industrial set-up with open ceilings, now it seems to be ‘bohemian chic’. Expect to see more indoor plants, floral motifs, wire-based furniture and antiques used as props.
Bars and fine dining restaurants are also now migrating to a dimly lit lounge-like aesthetic with leather sofas, dark wood and sophisticated light fixtures, and a few bright corners for selfies and photographs.
Silli, Mumbai | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Aggregators like Zomato and Google have identified a spike in searches for terms like ‘Instagrammable’ and ‘good ambiance’ and have compiled lists of places matching this criteria. Silly, a restobar located in Khar, features in Zomato’s list of ‘Insta-worthy places’ in Mumbai. Founder Karan Nohria says, “From vibrant murals to stunning table settings, we aim to create Instagrammable moments that leave a lasting impression and inspire others to see and savor.”
The Godrej Food Trends Report 2023 predicts that personalized producer brand-driven experiences with show kitchens and food-theatre based concepts are expected to grow exponentially. But celebrity chef, K Damodaran, popularly known as Chef Damu, is concerned that these experiences bring down the quality of the food.
He says that as modern cooking techniques like molecular gastronomy are gaining popularity, the consumption of chemicals such as liquid nitrogen to quickly solidify ingredients or the sodium alginate that is used in the process of spherification may be unhealthy in the long term. Could
Made by Fruit Caviar Spherical | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
While people flock to restaurants based on reviews and reactions to content creators on social media, the proof of halwa is actually in its taste.
“I have had many people comment that they see a reel and go to a restaurant, but it doesn’t promote. When Influencers fake responses, the restaurant doesn’t get the conversion it wants because the guest Will come only once. This will also affect the credibility of the content creators,” says Govind Pallipurath, a food vlogger from Kerala who goes by the name Kerala Foodie.
He says that both influencers and audiences need to be responsible and aware of the power and gimmicks of social media before going out to eat.
As always with social media, what you see is not always what you get.