TikTok Rings the Alarm for Yelp

May 22, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

Social media influencers have been making and breaking restaurants since MySpace was still a thing. GrubStreet, another bastion for foodies and restaurant owners, reported that TikTok now controls the Internet food scene over Yelp: “How TikTok Took Over The Menu.” TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are how young diners are deciding where to eat. These are essential restaurant discovery tools. Aware of the power of these social media platforms, restaurants are adapting their venues to attract popular influencer food critics. These influencers replace the traditional newspaper food critic and become ad hoc publicists for the restaurants. They’re lured to venues with free food or even a hefty cash payment.

The new restaurant critic business created SOP for ideas business practices, and ingredients to appeal to the social media algorithms. Many influencers ask the businesses “collab” in exchange for a free meal. Established influencers with huge followings not only want a free lunch but also demand paychecks. There are entire companies established on connecting restaurants and other business with social media influencers. The services have an a la carte pricing menu.

Another problem from the new type of food critics are the LED lights required to shoot the food. LED lights are the equivalent of camera flashes and can disturb other diners. Many restaurants welcome filming with the lights while other places ban them. (Filming is still allowed though.)

Huge tactics to lure influencers is creating scarcity and create an experience with table side actions. Another important tactic is almost sinful:

“Above all, the goal is excess; the most unforgivable social-media sin for any restaurant is to project an image of austerity…The chef Eyal Shani knows how to generate this particular energy. His HaSalon restaurants serve 12-foot-long noodles and encourage diners to dance on their tables, waving white napkins over their heads while disco blares from speakers. “Thirty years ago, it was about the content” of a dish or an idea, says Shani, who runs 40 restaurants around the world and has seen trends ebb and flow over the decades. ‘People tried to understand the structure of your creation.’ Today, it’s much more visual: ‘It’s very flat — it’s not about going into depth.’”

If restaurants focus more on shallowness and showmanship, then quality is going to tank. It’s going to go the way of the American attention span. TikTok ruins another thing.

Whitney Grace, May 22, 2023


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