Australia is in the middle of a crisis that most people seem to remain ignorant to, and that crisis is the hospitality industry. With the rise of social media platforms and online Influencers, it’s no secret that the restaurant industry is booming. Consumers are using social media more and more as a platform to gather information and base their decisions, so much so that Influencers are receiving their own segments in Marketing Journals. This places an astonishing emphasis on digital marketing, with apps such as Instagram becoming a driving force for Online Consumer Culture.
18-year-old giggly (and equally annoying) ‘photographers’ give restaurants a new way to market, which I like to call the Flocking Effect. Rather than allocating expenses towards renting billboards and hiring ad space in magazines, they rely on Influencers to do all the talking. After all, that’s what they are, Influencers… and you can bet your bottom (or top) dollar that their online followers WILL abide by their every ‘review’ and flock like pigeons to trash.
They don’t call them followers for nothing.
So what steps does one take to be an online influencer, and what separates the Influencer from their followers? Hint: A lot, apparently.
1: Being rich.
2: Being attractive.
3: Being entitled (I’ll come back to this one).
Do it for the ‘gram
It comes with little surprise that these sorts of people gain major traction online. They show off their grand lifestyles, regular extravagant holidays and picturesque photos, all of which draws in hundreds of thousands of consumers who wish to live vicariously through them. As the consumers come, so do the business opportunities as they capitalise on their digital footprint by charging businesses for sponsorships:
“Would you like 5 mentions on my Instagram story in a month? That’ll be $xxxx thanks!! Xx 😙<3″.
This is where the crux of the issue lies: Influencers are being paid to pretend to give a shit about products that they were given for free, in order to influence their fan-base to purchase the same expensive items under false pretences. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, no?
While it may seem like this relates primarily to the fashion industry, it couldn’t be further from the truth. A mere Google search on the topic reveals hundreds of pages of articles explaining how to eat for free everywhere you go. To no surprise, step numéro uno is… being Instagram famous!
This is where self-entitlement comes in to play. These so-called role models have been receiving A-grade treatment from hospitality establishments for such a long time that they have started to lose sight of what it means to be an Influencer. Rather than being humbled by the opportunity to review a restaurant or cafe, they now think they are entitled to free meals. This has reached such levels of vanity that – as an inside source has informed me – Influencers are now entering restaurants and shamelessly demanding free food due to their digital footprint. But they seem so genuine and thankful in their Instagram posts? It’s like they’re fake or something… To take it to a whole new level of extreme, they apparently sometimes drop the line: “Do you know who I am?”. What, do they think they’re in The Godfather?
Naturally (and sadly), Marketers are biting and often obliging these absurd requests; after all, it is their job to make the business as much money as possible!
Style over Substance
Contrary to how it may seem, online Influencers aren’t the only cause of the Cafedemic. Restaurants embracing the Flocking Effect and capitalising on the new foodie culture are delivering a whole new meaning to the term ‘Style over Substance’.
Have you ever seen something delicious online and been seduced enough to indulge your inner foodie, only to realise upon first bite that it’s almost inedible? Well you aren’t alone. Restaurants have taken a literal approach to the term and have realised that if it looks good online, it sells; and if it’s selling, the cost is almost irrelevant.
It’s important as consumers to ask ourselves the question, when does style become irritability? A Reddit Forum answers this by showcasing examples of restaurants taking ‘Style over Substance’ far too literally, and most of the photos on there are laughable at best. I for one might end up flipping a table if I get one more meal served on a plank of wood.
p.s. The only parcels I EVER want to see strapped to a clothesline are filled with wine.
(I made my meme with Comic Sans to highlight just how stupid this is)
On a less over-the-top note, let’s have a look at a recent breakfast I purchased at a local Cafe: Tasty? Yes. Big? No. How much did it cost? $19.
Don’t get me wrong; I won’t think twice about paying more for better quality. However, as I was struck by curiosity, a quick online search had me realise that it would cost only $4 to whip up this brekky myself. I certainly don’t think $15 worth of hard labour goes into every eggs on toast that they churn out of that place. But i’m sure as shit certain the presence of a lemon wedge and Pistachio crumbs raise the price. After all, It does look good.
So, what about the 1% of us who aren’t ‘Insta famous’ these days and prefer substance over style? We are asked to battle against the ever-increasing prices within the hospitality industry, lest we boycott it all together. As lovers of food we have a responsibility to stand up for what is right. We must band together to put an end to the Flocking Effect that plagues Online Consumer Culture, we must fight against the tyrannis establishments that think it’s acceptable to put ravioli on a ‘clothesline’, and we must stop listening to @Becky with the half-finished fine arts degree and 120k followers. Something tells me she isn’t a qualified critic.