Taking snaps of your meal, or browsing through Instagram photos of food enhances the satisfaction derived from eating, a new study has found. Photography has become a large part of the dining experience. Food-related hashtags on social media have millions of posts and most Americans don’t flinch at the sight of fellow diners snapping photos of their meals. Intrigued by this new social norm and its impact, Sean Coary, assistant professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, teamed up with Morgan Poor, assistant professor at the University of San Diego, to research the impact of consumer-generated images of food on satisfaction.
“When we take a photo of something before eating, we create a momentary but intentional delay in consumption, allowing all of the senses to be engaged and building the anticipation of enjoyment,” said Coary. The research included three studies with over 120 participants in each study.
Results suggest that taking a picture before consumption leads to more favourable evaluations of the food – but only when the dish is indulgent in nature. However, the positive effects of photographing food can be activated when consumers are aware of the healthy eating habits of others, researchers said.
“Diners want to remember the visual aesthetic of their food, especially when it’s something indulgent,” said Coary. On the other hand, “when eating healthy, there’s a desire to signal to others that we are part of the ‘fit’ club.” In either scenario, it’s a way to participate in a widely accepted communal practice, Coary said.
These studies have implications for food brands and restaurants, according to Poor. “If your food is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, your customers will want to take a photograph and potentially share it,” said Coary.
“Training staff who understand the importance of aesthetics and finding creative ways to take advantage of this free advertising are crucial for both brands and restaurants,” she said. The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.