Food porn in restaurants

by Khushboo on October 21, 2013

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you have heard of the expression Food Porn.  Just so we’re all on the same page, it’s a glamorized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, cooking shows or other visual media (Source).  Although it can be a bit awkward to equate food and sex, I can see why “food porn” has become increasingly popular: Sex sells and people just really love looking & drooling at pictures of food.  As more care and emphasis is placed on food photography (e.g. in terms of lighting, presentation, table cloth, utensils), food porn continues to entice others beyond the sense of taste.

Teriyaki Salmon with Jasmine Rice & Seaweed Salad

Teriyaki Salmon with Jasmine Rice & Seaweed Salad

Soho Japan195 Baker Street, London NW1 6UY

Earlier this year, I recall reading a few articles  about food photography bans in certain restaurants.  Many restaurant owners feel that the use of flash photography may ruin the experience of fellow diners in the restaurant.  For example, someone proposing to his girlfriend may be distracted by the flash going off on next table.  Whilst trying to click the perfect shot, the dish may get cold or the ice cream might melt, and therefore disrupt both the flow of service and/or taste of dish.  Additionally dim lighting may make it harder to capture beautiful shots, and ultimately underplay a dish’s essence.

funny-people-taking-photos-food

While the reasons above do hold some truth, I personally think a ban would result in more harm than good.  There are plenty of ways for customers to be a nuisance in a restaurant, so drawing upon food photography is a bit ridiculous.  Especially given the growing social media craze and how easy it is to instantly share a glimpse of your meal to massive social networks, it’s almost like a restaurant is voluntarily opting out of free advertising.  Some of my friends who aren’t food bloggers often whip out their Smartphone to snap a photo of an elaborate dish before digging in.  If an image on Instagram catches my eye or appeals to my tastes buds, I am likely to consider that particular restaurant when I next dine out (given I’m in that same city).

Lobster Linguini

Lobster Linguini

Casa Becci 32 Paddington Street, London W1U 4HE

With all that said, I am still conservative with taking photos in certain restaurants. There is a time & place for when it is appropriate i.e. who I’m dining with & where.  However I’d prefer that decision be made by me, rather than dictated by a restaurant.  Dim lighting aside, fortunately any photo-taking I have done in the past in restaurants has never posed a problem.  In fact when I told the manager at Cocochan last week that I was taking a photo for my blog because I loved the presentation, he even asked me if I wanted him to improve the lighting.  Although I didn’t need to take him up on his offer, the gesture was much appreciated…thanks Alberto :-)!

Sushi Bento Box

Sushi Bento Box

Cocochan38-40 James Street, London W1U 1EU

What’s YOUR take on banning food photography in restaurants?  

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com October 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Have to agree – by banning customers from taking photos of their dishes, the food establishment is shooting themselves in their foot as that is indeed free advertising!
Social media is the new “by word of mouth” 🙂
And seems Alberto from Cocohan understood that very well-very very sweet of him to offer to alter the lighting!
And that Terriyaki salmon need to have a NC-17 rating-looks extremely drool worthy!

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

NC-17…I’m blaming it on my lack of sleep but what does “NC” stand for??

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Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com October 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm

NC 17 = No children under 17
Which – in this case -in my house- would mean ALL the terriyaki salmon for moi! 🙂

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Khushboo October 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm

HAHA that rating might have to catch on!!

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Lucie@FitSwissChick October 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Swiss people are a mix of inhibited, shy, friendly and nosy, so you won’t find too many people taking shots at a restaurant. I always get ‘looks’ when I do it, and I actually only do it when I am with someone who knows that I am a blogger and therefore ‘need’ to take a pic 🙂 So I am not sure how the restaurants like or don’t like the photographing, but it’s definitely advertising for free, so they should not complain!

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

Shy, friendly and nosy–> The Swiss sound a lot like Indians 😉

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Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen October 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I can see how the flash from a camera may be disruptive to the other diners, but so can overly loud conversation at other tables, or noisiness coming from the kitchen, or many other things. Besides, as you said, photos of the food on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook is free advertising for the restaurant – why wouldn’t they want that?!

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:42 am

If only such restaurants realised how powerful and influential social media is!

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Ksenija @ With An Open Mind October 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

“it’s almost like a restaurant is voluntarily opting out of free advertising” That is exactly what I thought the first time I heard of the photography ban. I mean seriously. Who is so indelicate to take pictures when the situation seems inappropriate? I usualy use my mobile phone cam and would never think of using flash in a restaurant. One time my aunt took me out to a Libanese restaurant and insisted that I bring my fancy DSL since the food looks stunning. I left it in my purse and only took it out quickly for one or two shots of the plate. Nobody was disturbed or gave me a look.

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:42 am

Haha looks like your aunt is on board with the food porn craze 😉

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. October 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I’m with you — I think banning photography in restaurants is a little goofy. I mean, of course it can be taken a little too far and become disruptive, but so can a lot of other things. I know I don’t dine out all that much, but I’ve never run into a problem where food photography has been an issue. What’s next? They’re going to put a ban on taking pictures in general if you want to capture a special moment or something? Pft. And yeah… who wouldn’t want free advertising? 😯

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:43 am

Haha it’s only a matter of time till something as crazy as a “sightseeing photography ban” is placed!!

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles October 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I’m definitely not a fan of the idea of banning photos in restaurants. Unless people are crawling over furniture (or other diners!) trying to get the perfect shot, I find it hard to believe that it’s -that- disruptive. In the end, taking photos of the food and posting it on social media is free advertising for the restaurant, so I would think that more restaurants would encourage it.

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

Haha as much as I am a fan of photography restaurant dishes, crawling over furniture to get the perfect shot sounds goofy even to me!! 😉

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Parita @ myinnershakti October 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I couldn’t agree more with the whole free advertising thing. Why any business would ban something that brings in more customers is beyond me! I rely heavily on my social media feeds for restaurant recommendations, as do most people I know. With that being said, I can kind of understand why certain upscale restaurants would prefer that flashes not be going off every few minutes. Eating out is as much about the food as it is about the ambiance. Personally, I don’t mind when people take pictures of their meal (because I am one of those people), but if the owner of a restaurant feels that it takes away from the customer experience, I suppose banning cameras is his/her decision to make.

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:45 am

That’s a good point about the ambiance being as important of food in a restaurant…definitely something restaurant owners need to consider!

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Davida @ The Healthy Maven October 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I actually think imposing a ban would be completely absurd! I would never feel bothered by a flash in restaurants. Then again I would never take a picture with a flash because I’m a neurotic food blogger who has to have the right lighting…and yes that means sometimes I eat dinner at 5PM 😉

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:45 am

Haha A+ for commitment to the cause 😉

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dixya| food, pleasure, and health October 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm

i dont like the whole idea of it – i understand if there is some event going on, flash might distract it but if i am dining casually, I want to take picture and share it with everyone.

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:46 am

Definitely a case of “time & place”!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig October 22, 2013 at 1:50 am

Ha, this made me laugh! I am VERY subtle when I take pictures of my food in public. I don’t like getting caught and then having to explain what I’m doing haha! And if I’m out with “normal” people (i.e. not Rob or fitness freaks or bloggers) I will never snap a pic of my food. Sometimes nobody else needs to share the moment haha

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 2:46 am

HAHAHA at the “fitness freak or blogger” reference- holler :D!

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Arman @ thebigmansworld October 22, 2013 at 4:26 am

Before I answer your question, I need to reinstate my offer for those lobster noodles. 😉

The marketing and PR nerd in me thinks it is blasphemy to ban it- while I can see their point of view, it really is a loss of free advertising, promotion etc- we had this huge argument in the media here about restaurants hating urbanspoon because of the reviews etc- ironically it was from those who received negative criticism!

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

If anything, restaurants should use sites like Urbanspoon as motivation to stay on top of their game!

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Ameena October 22, 2013 at 5:59 am

I am super subtle when I take pictures of food or anything! I can’t imagine being bothered by people who do take pictures.

I agree with Arman…I think it’s blasphemy. Great word. 🙂

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Haha it’s one of those words I try to sneak in at every chance I get 😀

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Honey What's Cooking October 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

i don’t think it’s a good idea to ban photography at restaurants… it is really free advertising. half the time I eat with my eyes, so pictures help. unless it’s a top notch Michelin star restaurant and $$$$$, there really is no reason for them to ban photographing food at restaurants.

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Khushboo October 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

“Eat with my eyes”–> how I can relate ha!

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Jan @ Sprouts n Squats October 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I think it would be silly to ban photography as to me if it is a decent dish it is promoting that restaurant and giving them great publicity.

Loved that ‘meanwhile on instagram’ photo…that is too too funny 😀

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Khushboo October 23, 2013 at 7:07 pm

So funny yet so true!!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table October 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I think it’s more about the people you are with. If you’re at an important business dinner, a pic probably isn’t appropriate. Otherwise, I think restaurant should embrace the free PR! I read an article a while ago where an restaurant was even offering free events where they shared tips for better iPhone photography!

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Khushboo October 23, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Now that’s an event I want to attend!!

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Alex @ therunwithin October 23, 2013 at 5:33 am

I still have yet to get into the habit of taking pictures of my food, even at really good restaurants. I always see people doing it though!

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Khushboo October 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I’ve noticed food photography in restaurants becoming a lot more common too!

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Alexis @ Hummusapien October 23, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Let’s just say that if food photography was banned in restaurants, I could NEVER eat out. And that would be very sad for Instagram, just sayin 😉

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Khushboo October 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Haha the ban would hurt both restaurants’ & Instagram’s business!

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli October 29, 2013 at 9:35 am

“…it’s almost like a restaurant is voluntarily opting out of free advertising…There is a time & place for when it is appropriate…However I’d prefer that decision be made by me, rather than dictated by a restaurant” Yes, yes, YES!! I couldn’t agree more! Seriously, you took the words right out of my mouth!

And omg, how cool was that of the owner to offer to change the lighting! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten frustrated over dim lighting when I’m faced with an exceptionally pornirific dish! 😉

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Khushboo October 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

Bad restaurant lighting = major case of #foodbloggerproblems 😉

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