3.10.2015: The Instagram Effect


How Instagram Changed Cooking
Don’t you love it when things come together nicely? This piece basically restates everything I’ve said about Instagram and how it’s changing the restaurant industry. If you’re a cook, Instagram is great for sharing and great for promotion — and it also allows you to be immersed in someone else’s work… all the time (for better or worse, I guess.) It’s a nice summary with some great points.

This Instagramification also causes trends to emerge, spread, and die much more quickly than they used to. This is happening in most creative industries from food to fashion, and I generally think it’s good; encouraging innovation. Plus, this means that the “best” creatives rise to the top, gathering large followings. But unlike fashion, the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. You can see the food but you can’t smell it and you certainly can’t taste it. This translates into fancy plating and composed dishes made for the camera: bright colors, varied ingredients, and, maybe even higher usage of square plates in restaurants. (I’m dubious about that one, but my husband says it’s for real.)

Regardless, this social tech is changing the industry. It’s why I started this newsletter two (!) years ago, and why I continue to chronicle weekly news. I’m happy to see the influence spread, and happy to watch as so much more innovation comes out of the food and technology space.

illustration by April V. Walters


How the Apple Watch Could Change How We Eat (Kinda.)

Nope, this newsletter is not a safe haven, either. Everyone is capitalizing on the top tech news item of the week: the Apple Watch. Love it, hate it, remain undecided — but  it seems like this at least has a better chance of taking off than Google Glass did. The watch definitely has the potential to change some of our habits and mannerisms. FWx (that Food & Wine site) has a quick rundown of how the new gadget willchange the way you eat, drink, and travel.

I am hoping that it’s especially good for mobile payments at restaurants. There are a few good products for this already — making the experience even more seamless by eliminating the need to reach for a phone will make them even easier and more enticing. (Still not buying one though.)



Have You Seen the New OpenTable?

Last week, OpenTable revealed its brand-new look: a new site, new logo, new voice, and a whole lot of awesome. We can agree the refresh was a bit overdue, but regardless, it’s looking good. I love writing about OpenTable because it was, in my opinion, the start of the restaurant + tech space. OT launched in 1998 as a service to diners and restaurants, and has evolved into a convenience tool, a discovery tool, and a ubiquitous method of making a reservation. Now that the company has more competition, it was right to roll out a better, more modern look. And while OpenTable has added some new products and more layers on top of its original idea, it still focuses on what it does best: connecting people to restaurants and online reservations. Nice work, guys.
(Disclosure: I have done contract work for OpenTable in the past.)



A Ratings System… for Diners?

This idea came up during a casual conversation recently, but I didn’t think it was possible. Since someone else suggested it, though, let’s talk about it. After dealing with two beyond-rude customers who threatened a bad Yelp review, a Boston restaurateur said, “Uber allows for service providers to rate customers, we should move to that system.”

Let’s imagine this for a moment: instead of you rating the restaurant, the restaurant rates you. To be fair, this does happen on some level with software like OpenTable or Swipely, where the restaurant can leave notes on a guest’s profile — generally, allergies, preferences, or other details to help identify and welcome repeat guests. The “Uber model” would take this a step further, presumably. Could your rating follow you around like a Wanted poster? Probably. There’s some interesting thinking here, especially if you believe that the age of digital documentation keeps people in check (you can just read today’s news to see that that’s a real thing.) I’m not exactly sure what this would look like in practice, or how the average consumer would react. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere, is working on some sort of product that actually does this. (If it’s you, please tell me about it!)



Food and Tech at SXSW

Finally! Food tech is taking a starring role at this year’s SXSW in Austin. (Though last year’s IBM/Watson cooking stunt was pretty great.)

There are a whole bunch of panels and movies and presentations filed under SouthBites at the festival this year. Three that seem especially relevant to the interests of this newsletter: Food Criticism in the Digital Age (I can’t wait to hear how this one goes); Chef, Reviewer, Guest: Who’s Got the Power Today? (featuring friend of C+T/fantastic food writer Chris Stang from The Infatuation); and Reinventing the Cooking Show to a Digital Audience, which mostly reminds me we’re finally past the Rachael Ray-ification of food television (though she usually rocks out at SXSW, so don’t be surprised if she shows up.)

I’m missing out this year, but will be following along via #SouthBites — have fun in Austin!



Love Cheese? Adopt an Italian Cow

This isn’t quite a tech story, but it’s pretty close, and it’s pretty awesome. In an effort to help farmers, cheese lovers are now able to “adopt” a cow in the Italian Alps. For 60 Euros, adopters get a selection of cheese produced from the cow’s milk. The catch: you have to drive to the farm to get it — no shipping and no exporting.

It’s a bummer for those of us not in Italy and in love with these cheeses (which are near impossible to get in the US), but great for tourism in these small farming communities — that also produce great wine, by the way. Cheese vacation, anyone?



  • Hilarious bacon-wrapped crust pizza review — YouTube via The Infatuation
  • As GrubHub and Yelp expand, there’s still opportunity for small players — StreetFight Mag
  • New on Delectable: rate any wine, no photo necessary — Delectable


Worth Your Time

  • Crowdfunding for food entrepreneurs from Food+Tech Connect. March 28, in person in New York or online — Eventbrite Tickets
  • Swipely webinar: Protect your restaurant from data breaches — Swipely


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