To eat or not to eat? You might wonder why such a question would ever be asked in a restaurant; after all, that’s the very reason people set foot in such places. That was the case until fairly recently, anyway. But with the ever-growing reach of the internet alongside the ever-increasing popularity of social-networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram, another type of customer has emerged, and shows no sign of retreating (despite certain establishments’ efforts). And who is this not-so-elusive character? The food blogger, armed with their camera rather than a knife and fork.
I’m sure many of you have witnessed it by now; the eagerly anticipated food is brought to a nearby table and suddenly a flash goes off, the plates artfully relocated and reshot until the perfect picture is taken, which is then often instantly uploaded for the world to know: I am at Zuma! Here is the proof! Of course, not all snappers are engaging in this global game of culinary Top Trumps, with those at the most coveted tables in town gloating about being there, rather than truly appreciating the labour of love in front of them. But a quick glance at my ownFacebook news feed page suggests that many are…
Before we go any further, I must point out at this stage that I too, write a food blog, and I too, on occasion, have been guilty of photographing my food in a restaurant. The shame! To make matters even more hypocritical, I also cook for a living, and so I sit rather uncomfortably on the fence on this subject. My readers want a visual, alongside a post about the best barbecue in South Carolina, rather than just reading an amateur review. But I also know that when I’ve pushed myself to send out the best I can offer on a plate, I’m doing it for the customers to eat and enjoy, not photograph from different moody angles for three minutes while it sits dejectedly on display.
It has recently been reported that some restaurants have taken the bold step of banning food photography, with mixed responses. With distraction to both the chefs and fellow diners being top of the list of reasons behind this move, I am inclined to think that reprimanding an unwitting customer may well be more of a distraction than the act of photography itself; and how is this policy reinforced? Are all photos to be banned, whether of the plates or people at the table? In a brightly-lit restaurant, a flash is not always necessary; in these instances, how do you know whether someone is taking a picture on their iPhone or showing off their new kitten to their friends? And regarding the feelings of the chef: yes, it can be irritating, but how far can this militancy go? Should staff refuse to clear any plates unless every last bite is consumed?
The advantage of free publicity aside – after all, people rarely photograph anything they’re not impressed with, even if they’re just aiming to show off, and how can this not be beneficial to a restaurant? – I think it all comes down to discretion, from both staff and would-be David Loftuses alike. The latter are paying the former so some leeway is only fair, and the former’s job is to ensure all customers are happy – not just those with a camera in their hand – so let’s enable them to do that with the minimum of trouble. If in doubt, why not take a photo of the menu on the way out? If you really think the food’s worthy of all this hassle, the menu will paint as pretty a picture as one of your own. And if even this fails and they try to stop you? I’d suggest you might be better suited to dining elsewhere.
When she’s not agonising over blogging etiquette, Claudia Winfield can be found in kitchens across London and beyond catering for events large and small. For further information visit www.claudiawinfield.co.uk. And for a taste of Claudia’s food-focused life at large, visit www.claudiawinfield.co.uk/blog for unique recipes, reviews, travelling tales and news.