Hong Kong restaurants adapt to Instagram food porn craze

July 13, 2017
Industry News
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Social media is changing the Hong Kong food scene, with some star chefs and restaurant chains adapting their menus to satisfy Instagrammers, and picking up free publicity in the process
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Bernice Chan
bernice.chan@scmp.com

In less than two years, Four Seasons Hong Kong hotel pastry chef Nicolas Lambert has picked up 56,000 followers on Instagram. His cakes and pastries look so pretty and intricate it’s no wonder people all over the world are drooling over them. He admits he had not previously paid much attention to social media.

“Our social media manager told me that Hongkongers love to share food pictures, so we started the account,” Lambert, 29, recalls. “At first I posted a picture every 10 days, and then once a week. After six months, it was once every three days, and now it’s every two days.”

The five-star hotel – along with any tuned-in restaurant around Hong Kong – is well aware of the marketing power of social media, and in particular, the huge popularity of the so-called food porn craze on Instagram. It may, or may not, make or break a restaurant, but customers’ photos of delectable dishes, with relevant hashtags, can be a viral source of free marketing.

Lambert is as particular in taking photos as he is in creating mouth-watering desserts. He doesn’t use filters because guests want their meals to look exactly the same as those on his Instagram account, he says.

He is constantly thinking ahead, spending about 30 minutes every day taking pictures of his culinary creations, or making videos of himself decorating a dessert.

Still, not all his posts are aimed at earning the approval of diners – some are shots of him hiking, eating at other restaurants or playing with his dog.

“I’ve had guests who come to Caprice and when they see me they say, ‘Your dog is so cute!’ At first I was surprised because I haven’t met them before. But then I realised, it’s because they have seen pictures of him on my Instagram account,” Lambert says.

He noticed that he gained many new followers after a community of culinary professionals, under the banner @ChefsTalk, started liking his pictures. Before long he was seeing 200 to 300 more likes on each of his posts.

Along with growing popularity on Instagram came greater pressure to live up to expectations. In order to regularly update his account, Lambert feels the need to constantly dream up new dessert ideas. “Hongkongers like new things all the time. In France, when we make desserts, we change them probably twice a year,” he says. “Now that I’ve had this Instagram account, I’ve created 280 different products.” One fan has posted photos of all 280 creations on the photo-sharing app.

A restaurant chain that has zoomed in on the power of social media as a marketing tool in designing its menu is Yum Cha HK. The chain, with three branches in the city, is known for its bestselling hot custard molten buns. Continue Reading
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