The Perks and Politics of the Cheese Pull

Featured in Penn Appetit's Spring 2018 Issue

Originally published in our spring 2018 issue: See Food

By Grace Leahy
Photo by Maria Murad

#Foodporn inches closer to a complete internet takeover with every passing day. With almost 150 million recorded Instagram posts, it is impossible to escape the temptation of stretchy, farm-fresh cheeses, perfectly pinched pie crusts, chocolate-dipped Italian pastries, and impeccably plated… rainbow bagels?

When posts look too good to be true, they traverse the internet via likes, shares and recommended content. In other words, more likes means more publicity. In the ever-growing vortex that is Instagram, the number of #foodporn posts surges as photos compete to be more colorful, more original, and more, well, consumable. Nowadays, our short, social media-shaped attention spans only allow us a glimpse of stand-out spots and sought-after trends. We tend to read less, and sometimes, we don’t read at all. So when it comes to culinary business, descriptive images are crucial to effectively promoting content.

The question is – from a marketing standpoint – how much of a role does #foodporn play in attracting customers?

After scouring Instagram for the prettiestPhiladelphia accounts, I realized one of my favorites lies just on the border of Penn’s campus – Beiler’s Donuts. Hannah Eshleman, the marketing/social media manager, who runs the account and takes the photos, gave me some insider information on Beiler’s Insta-marketing success.

Do people often post photos of your food? What’s the most popular dish? The most pretty?
“Our #beilers hashtag has about 2,200 tags, and #beilersdonuts is almost at 3,000. Our donuts are visually appealing and that definitely makes us very ‘Instagramable’. There is a lot of interaction with our Facebook and Instagram and it has been a lot of fun to be able to hear people’s feedback, see their hilarious donut puns, and drool over their beautiful photos.”

Have you noticed any changes in demographic or increases in popularity for a certain dish due to Instagram?
“People love to photograph the Maple Bacon and the Fruity Pebbles, and so by default, people come in to try those because they saw them online. Insider did a video of our location in Reading Terminal Market and our Fruity Pebbles donut was heavily featured. It became so popular after that.”

Do you think the visual and aesthetic value of food is increasing?

“100% yes. People love to photograph their food. I mean, let’s be frank: sometimes it’s annoying. ‘No one wants to see the whole wheat turkey sandwich that you’re having in the break room, Lisa.’ A Maple Bacon donut, on the other hand, is gold. If people post it, their friends see it and suddenly, they’re craving donuts. It’s social media magic. Food presentation has always mattered, but it’s more important now than ever. Not only does it affect the immediate consumer, it is documented and shown to all of their friends, family, and random acquaintances.”

As is the case with Beiler’s, Instagram-ability can be a huge asset to everyone involved – I know I can always fall back on a good slow-mo cheese pull when the times get tough – but there’s definitely risk in judging a book by its cover. #Foodporn promises a delicious and sexy food experience, continually setting the bar higher for businesses who now must make sure their food’s aesthetic can compete. Young hires and restaurant veterans must achieve social-media proficiency because in the current culinary climate, it’s the standard, and businesses may have trouble staying afloat without it.

If people continue to show such an affinity for food, porn, and social media, #foodporn’s crusade toward world domination will be easy as pie.

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