Time Well Spent//

Restaurants Are Now Designed to be ‘Instagrammable’

“Make the interior more Instagram friendly,” said no restaurant owner ever. Until now.

Interior design is notoriously trendy—Edison lights, color blocking, Nordic minimalism, etc. But a new trend is making restaurant interiors look like a Pinterest page come to life and turning social media into the centerpiece of your nice dinners out.

I wrote recently about how a restaurant in London is handing out “Instagram Kits” so every patron can be an amateur photographer. Now some restaurants are taking it to another level by factoring how “Instagrammable” a space can be into the design itself, The Verge reports.

Writer Casey Newton interviewed designers and restaurateurs, including the entrepreneurs behind the Instagram-friendly (and famous) San Francisco restaurant Media Noche, whose now-signature tiled floors have amassed hundreds of nearly identical Instagram posts. Many people interviewed shared the same eerily modern outlook on the current state of restaurant design: social media is part of the equation.

It’s only natural restaurateurs would want the interior of their spaces to be pleasing and welcoming; the difference now is that social media has taken the “social” aspect out of it. It’s no longer just about designing comfortable spaces that are conducive to connection and conversation (you know, the stuff good meals are made of) but about being ripe to go viral.

The trend is “how you know millennials are starting to open restaurants,” Hanna Collins, a designer based in San Francisco, told Newton. There’s a broad school of thought about how to make your space “shareable,” but most restaurants seem to follow a similar model: think lots of neon, aesthetically pleasing floors, artfully lit food, catchy block quotes on a repurposed surface and murals designed specifically for people to pose in front of. One restaurateur Newton interviewed said “we literally think about framing our photographs, and how we can capture the essence of our experience within the square frame of Instagram specifically.”

That’s right—the “essence of our experience” is perfectly sized for Instagram. Somewhere, mom and pop restaurant owners are hoping red booths and checkered tablecloths will at least make for a good throwback post.

Of course, the idea of using design to cement a brand’s identity predates social media, as Eddy Buckingham, co-owner of The Good Sort, a vegan tea and coffee shop in New York City, told Newton. But Newton made an important distinction: while “restaurateurs have always wanted their spaces to look attractive,” he wrote, “in the era before social media, a designer could concern herself primarily with the space’s effect on its occupants.”

Designing a physical space with Instagram in mind is a sad reflection of how far our obsession with social media has come. And while screens have already made mealtimes less social (some restaurants are even offering discounts to the brave who dare to go phone-free for an entire meal), this interior design trend goes one step further: the team behind Media Noche told Newton that the “average guest takes pictures for 10 minutes before ordering anything.”

Besides being annoying for people waiting for a table, the idea that a space could be so distractingly shareable—to the point that people delay the very reason they came there (food), or worse, is the reason they came—doesn’t bode well for the future of mealtime.

Meals out should ideally be a time to socialize, catch-up with friends, treat yourself, and marvel at how good other people are at making delicious food—not for worrying about which filter to use to make your version of “feet on fancy floor tile” stand out from the crowd.

Read more on The Verge

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