F&B World - - SPECIAL FEATURE - Text by MICHAEL KARLO LIM with ad­di­tional re­port­ing by AN­GELO COM­STI Pho­tos by JILSON TIU

Chances are you are more re­li­gious about tak­ing pho­tos of and post­ing your food than say­ing grace be­fore meals. Then there’s the ob­ses­sive ex­er­cise in light­ing and com­po­si­tion. Never mind that you’re al­most al­ways eat­ing your food cold. There’s also the fas­ci­na­tion with the un­usual and the out­ra­geous, all fu­eled by the fear of miss­ing out. Cheese pulls, gravy pours, sauce drips, yolk break­ing, ev­ery­thing big, big­ger, big­gest. As of writ­ing, there are 233,948,487 posts on In­sta­gram with the hash­tag #food and this num­ber will have in­creased by the thou­sands by the time this story sees print. In­sta­gram has def­i­nitely changed the way we eat, as many give more im­por­tance and im­me­di­acy to shar­ing a meal with their dig­i­tal fol­low­ers than with ac­tual peo­ple at the din­ing ta­ble.

Pa­tri­cia Noel of Room For Dessert swears by In­sta­gram be­ing in­stru­men­tal in the ad­vance­ment of “food porn.” She feels that there is a sense of “be­long­ing­ness” when­ever peo­ple post pho­tos of a trend­ing food item or a meal at a hip new place. On the flip­side, she also ob­serves that some peo­ple make pur­chases for so­cial me­dia post­ing pur­poses. They don’t ac­tu­ally like even eat the prod­ucts them­selves. But for the sake of a nice post or the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting hun­dreds of likes, a num­ber of peo­ple have been guilty of buy­ing some­thing just to be able to spread word about it on­line. As for the pre­mium brands have placed on vis­ual ap­peal, she says some es­tab­lish­ments may have even fo­cused on “pretty” at the ex­pense of taste, qual­ity, logic, and daily caloric al­lowances.

The Bald Baker, Cy Ynares, sees the so­cio-eco­nomic leg-up of the free app for home busi­nesses and new en­trepreneurs as more cost-ef­fec­tive ad­ver­tis­ing. “I was able to max­i­mize my In­sta­gram ac­count and or­gan­i­cally shift my on­line cookie store into a food blog. The ad­di­tional ex­po­sure I get from be­ing a foodie helped me cap­ture new cus­tomers that in turn grew my cus­tomer base,” he says.

Vi­ral­ity is a food busi­ness’ dream. Noel’s dessert café was in­tro­duced to a larger in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence through a video re­post of her Fairy Floss Soft Serve by In­sider. Gar­ner­ing mil­lions of views, it led to ex­po­sure on sev­eral other on­line plat­forms. Ynares, on the other hand, not only puts out beau­ti­ful pho­tos but aug­ments his con­tent with wild and ar­guably wildly pop­u­lar IG sto­ries.

Post as of­ten as three times a day and, in par­tic­u­lar, be­tween 30 min­utes to one hour be­fore standard meal times, Cer­ti­fied Google AdSense pub­lish­ers Ger­ald and Jan­ice Yu­val­los both sug­gest. Po­si­tion­ing a prod­uct in the path of the #hangry—hungry there­fore an­gry, or emo­tion­ally vul­ner­a­ble, at the least—is a no-brainer. Ynares used to post three to five times a day with the chrono­log­i­cal or­der of the feed. The new IG al­go­rithm,

Post as of­ten as three times a day and, in par­tic­u­lar, be­tween 30 min­utes to one

hour be­fore standard meal times, Cer­ti­fied Google AdSense pub­lish­ers Ger­ald and Jan­ice Yu­val­los both sug­gest.

how­ever, makes post vis­i­bil­ity de­pen­dent on the qual­ity of pic­tures, type of me­dia, and the pres­ence of cur­rent fol­low­ers on­line.

“Know­ing the ba­sic con­cepts of peo­ple’s on­line be­hav­ior and the abil­ity to take pho­tos that look en­tic­ing and gen­uine are usu­ally all that it takes. The owner’s in­ti­mate knowl­edge of their prod­ucts—and an abil­ity to cre­ate short yet im­pact­ful cap­tions, then adding rel­e­vant #hash­tags—go a long way,” says Ger­ald. So­cial me­dia man­agers may be un­nec­es­sary for smaller, non-chain op­er­a­tions, but such ded­i­cated ex­per­tise for pro­duc­ing con­tent, en­gag­ing fol­low­ers, and grow­ing their on­line pres­ence should not be dis­counted.

Ynares plans and plots posts for ma­jor an­nounce­ments or big pro­mos. His daily posts, how­ever, are more on the fly and of­ten re­lated to his ac­tual daily ex­pe­ri­ences. Noel gen­er­ally plans at the start of the year for cer­tain pe­ri­ods given sales and out­let per­for­mance from the past year, work­ing her cal­en­dar around monthly tar­gets and sea­sonal push prod­ucts.

Trolls are one thing, and ver­i­fi­able cus­tomer dis­ap­point­ments are an­other. Noel be­lieves that whether pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, a brand should al­ways ac­knowl­edge the con­sumer’s ex­pe­ri­ence while also be­ing ob­jec­tive with re­spect to the sit­u­a­tion. The Bald Baker dif­fuses ten­sion with hu­mor­ous replies and con­struc­tive come­backs. Jan­ice had the un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ence of find­ing worms in her shawarma once. The un­apolo­getic store staff charged her in full; man­age­ment ig­nored call­outs, both pri­vate and, later, pub­lic, on­line. “We guess the in­fes­ta­tion started all the way from the top.” That es­tab­lish­ment even­tu­ally went on a steep de­cline.

The world con­tin­ues to turn, food porn is still in fash­ion, and peo­ple have be­come more ac­cus­tomed to the fact that the cam­era eats first. Dig­i­tal culi­nary wor­ship, if any­thing, has opened our eyes—and mouths—to the world of food, and re­fined our palates. We have been quicker to pick up on the trends on the other side of the planet, and have made our ob­ses­sion with food more ap­par­ent. Ta­ble cour­tesy may have been sac­ri­ficed be­cause of it, but peo­ple seem to have al­ready for­given, for­got­ten, and, well, ac­cepted the habit. Just don’t make the mis­take of putting food on the floor for a flat­lay shot. That’s tak­ing it a bit too far, don’t you think?

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