#Socialchef at Hotelympia: How can social media help chefs?

By Lauren Houghton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Social media, Restaurant

Chefs are divided over whether food pictures at restaurants should be banned, but should they be getting involved themselves?
Chefs are divided over whether food pictures at restaurants should be banned, but should they be getting involved themselves?
Restaurants' use of social media was a key topic at Hotelympia 2014 where Mars Foodservice UK announced the launch of its social media training workshops for chefs. 

BigHospitality recently reported on the controversial issue of customers taking food pictures from their smartphones​ in restaurants and using social media to send them to followers. Chefs at Hotelympia were divided on whether this practice should be encouraged or banned.

A discussion on the topic was chaired by Karen Fewell, marketing director at Digital Blonde, a digital consultancy specialising in the hospitality sector. She reported findings which suggested that instead of getting annoyed about customers posting about their restaurants on social media, chefs themselves should get involved with the networks to help their businesses.

This was backed up Mars Foodservice's announcement that it is going to be running new social media workshops created especially for chefs. The foodservice group has completed research that showed this would be happily received by the industry.

#FoodPorn

The panel at Hotelympia debated whether customers taking food pictures at restaurants, which have become fashionable to tweet under the #FoodPorn hashtag, should be banned. While on one hand these pictures could be free advertising for the restaurant, customers who are not professional photographers may not capture the food looking its best. In addition to this, some chefs believe that it can ruin the dining experience for the customer by disengaging them from actually eating their food.

tom-aikens-hotelympia
At Hotelympia chef Tom Aikens said there's a time and a place for food pictures

Chef at Tom’s Kitchen Tom Aikens said: “I think there’s a time and a place for taking pictures. It’s nice to share the moment; food pictures can capture a special dining-out moment for people. The downside from a chef’s point of view is that you can spend ages creating that beautiful dish, and then the customer’s picture can make it look terrible.”

Chef at Duck and Waffle Daniel Doherty said: “I don’t think we should ban it because it’s the way the world’s going now, everyone takes pictures and tweets them. But a customer spending ten minutes taking pictures of a dish and then sending it back because it’s cold, that’s happened to me and it’s very annoying.”  

Chefs getting social

The debate turned from customers posting about a restaurant on social media to the chefs themselves getting involved, and how it can be a great tool for promoting the restaurant. Digital Blonde released a report commissioned by Mars Foodservice and the Craft Guild of Chefs that showed many chefs are convinced on the importance of social media.  

The report showed that just over 90 per cent of chefs believed social media was a great way to increase footfall for their restaurant. BigHospitality has been asking our followers what they think about chefs getting involved with the social networks:
 

Mars Training
The Social Chef report released at Hotelympia not only highlighted chefs support for social media, but also showed that 65.5 per cent of those chefs who answered would like additional social media training to help them in their business.

Shortly afterwards it was announced that Mars Foodservice will soon launch some social media workshops tailored especially towards chefs. The workshops will cover a range of social networks including Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Vine and will aim to help chefs build up their online profile.

Marketing manager for Mars Foodservice Sarah Gray said: “Social media is still seen as a hidden tool within the marketing mix and can be confusing if you’re not in the know. It’s a great way for chefs to follow their peers, get news and information.”

Over to you

So what do you think? Is it important for chefs to get involved with social media, and not just leave the food pictures up to their customers? Should they be interacting over the networks themselves, or concentrating on the food and leaving that up to the PRs? Would you be interested in a social media workshop? Leave us a comment and let us know, and place your vote in our poll below:

Survey

Should chefs be the ones running their restaurant's social media accounts?

  • No - they should be concentrating on running the kitchen and leave the social media to the PRs

    8%
  • Yes - they have to move with the times and connect with their customers online

    51%
  • Maybe - they can contribute from time to time, but they'll be too busy to run it themselves

    41%

Related topics: Business, People, Digital, Trends & Reports

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1 comment

Chefs should contribute, but not manage

Posted by Jeremy Taylor,

Chef's should absolutely be involved in social media, but realistically I don't think they can be the ones with the main responsibility.

A huge part of it is going to be customer service. Whilst chef's will be great at receiving praise, it's only natural that they will get defensive if someone criticizes their food on Twitter - probably best to let someone else respond.

There's also a huge opportunity to be actively engaging potential customers. I wonder what proportion of restaurants are actually using social media monitoring? If I owned a restaurant in Cambridge for instance, I'd be searching for "restaurant" or "something to eat" and "Cambridge". There are going to be loads of people asking for advice on where to eat, and if a restaurant actually responds with an enticing invitation it will make a huge difference.

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