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Should restaurants ban foodie photographers?

The New York Times had an interesting story this week about Manhattan restaurants getting fed up with the “food porn” trend of people taking photos of their food and posting them on Facebook.

Some restaurants are outright banning picture taking, while others have policies against flash photography. It “disrupts the ambience” and can be a distraction for diners, they say. The story highlights some of the more zealous picture takers:

“There are those who use a flash and annoy everyone around them. There are those who come equipped with gorillapods — those small, flexible tripods to use on their tables.
There are even those who stand on their chairs to shoot their plates from above.
“We get on top of those folks right away or else it’s like a circus,” Mr. Bouley said.”

I don’t think we have any such photo bans at Fresno restaurants (let me know if we do). But what do you think of this trend? Chefs and restaurateurs, feel free to weigh in with your perspective too.

Personally, I’m all for quickly taking a discreet photo — no flash. We have some pretty amazing chefs in this town and I’ve been served some dishes that look like works of art. And those photos work as marketing too. That yummy photo might just be the push customers need to check out someplace new they’ve been considering.

Responses to "Should restaurants ban foodie photographers?"

Jon Koobation says:

I’m guilty. As long as someone isn’t standing on a chair (ridiculous), I don’t see a problem with it. It is more of a compliment to our efforts on the plate. A little discernment. Some of these guys are just too full of themselves.

KR, south of Fresno says:

I take photos of memorable plates of food and send them to my cuisine-loving family members. I use my iphone, from my chair, without drawing attention.

Lisa says:

I mostly take pictures of note able food I made myself. Since its my house, there’s no one to offend.

Mike says:

It should be left up to the business owner.

Jeffrey Whitaker says:

I think taking pics at a restaurant is ridiculous. Its the epitome of “look at me” tactics. With all the info tech we have today it makes people fixated on “themselves” it’s the whole “me” mentality. I would ban it and wouldn’t care if the patrons didn’t come back. Just like banning taking pix at a museum..if u like the portrait so much..buy it..don’t take a pic of it…just my opinion.

Heather P says:

It is fascinating that this is seeping into so many other areas of art and culture.

In the theater, we are constantly trying to balance the PR boon of the photo takers, the tweeters, the facebookers with their distraction-level. . . We love them at intermission, we hate them DURING the show. Many theaters have begun to accommodate people who want to tweet or take photos during a show with “tweet seats” in the back of the auditorium, where the light from the phone won’t glare into other people’s eyes.

Ultimately, restaurants (like theaters) are often trying to create a whole experience for all of their customers. That includes ambiance and a level of discerning behavior for the whole group. When a few people think that it is their own experience and no one else’s that counts, they get in the way of what the owners and chefs are trying to achieve. If it gets bad, that’s when etiquette guidelines have to be enforced.

As an arts creator AND a social media end-user, I believe that as long as people take photos, tweet, and facebook discreetly and at appropriate times, THANK YOU for the promotion! If they don’t, I say STOP GETTING IN THE WAY OF MY SHOW!

Donald Munro says:

Interesting perspective, Heather. Sometimes I wonder if the novelty of being able to constantly update the world will ever wear off for people. This restaurant-owner backlash — which is sort of snooty but expected for New York — is inevitable, I guess. In the coming years, I guess the idea of people constantly tweeting and updating will either be ubiquitous, or there will be so much “noise” online that people won’t even read those updates anymore. I hadn’t heard of “tweet seats” in theaters, by the way. Have you ever been to a theater that does that? Fascinating!

Heather P says:

Donald- I have been in a theater with tweet seats. Several mid-size venues in L.A. do them. The trick is that they HAVE to be in the back row, they HAVE to have their screens on a dimmed setting, and they HAVE to tweet about the show. Tweet seats are usually discounted (because of the distraction factor) and they have those who reserve them register their twitter names at the box office and they are given a particular hashtag to use. The box office or marketing team then monitors the tweet action. If they don’t tweet about the show, they tend to be barred from reserving tweet seats there again under that name.

Ultimately, the theaters have sort of figured out a way to turn these discounted seats into a little buzz for their shows on twitter. Maybe restaurants can designate an Instagram section and do the same thing. LOL!

pk says:

Remember the ‘ugly american’ tourist types that would go on vacation and take endless photos, ‘super 8′ movies and later the camcorder crowd?
They would then get you to view their vacation and travel exploits and then bore you with their running commentary….

YEA—like those guys!

All the hipster foodies are just a newer variation on ‘that guy’!
All the ‘tweeter’ types….ditto

The technology just gets in the way of the enjoyment of the experience….just live it people!! Drink it in and write about it….LATER!
Take a discreet photo….thats all….but don’t interfere with others trying to savor the experience in real time….
You are no more important than them.

Jared says:

I say taking pics is getting a bit out of hand, but doesn’t necessarily need to be banned. Yes, standing on chairs is stupid (and quite frankly, sounds like an exaggeration on the original author’s part), but ultimately these photos are uploaded to Facebook and/or Yelp. Both sites will typically hype up a few people’s interest in going to that same restaurant. It’s free advertising and some restaurants would be stupid not to take it. While browsing Yelp, I’ve often made my decision about going there based upon user submitted photos. It’s a new generation of tweeters, yelpers, and as someone said — all about “me.” It all comes back to the idea that these restaurants are getting free publicity.

From a social standpoint, it’s irritating to me that people can’t go out somewhere without feeling the need to let everyone on their social networking site know what they’re doing, where they’re at, and who they’re with. And of course now, share pictures of what they’re eating. I long for the days when people went out to be seen. Now people are going out to be seen… on Facebook.

But people — especially men — if you’re out on a date at a swanky restaurant, your cell phones should be put away anyway. And taking pics of your food just looks really unsophisticated.

ed says:

if a restaurant wants to ban photos, that’s their right. and, some of the photos being shared are terrible representations of the food. then again, some of the photos i’ve seen tweeted out by restaurants themselves look less than appetizing.

overall, i think the restaurants should be glad for the free press, as long as people don’t make a big scene in a restaurant and post decent photos.

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