How Instagram-worthy restaurants lure millennial diners

Katrina Domingo and Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2017 07:00 AM

How Instagram-worthy restaurants lure millennial diners 1
A stylized photo of Sunnies Cafe's fried chicken and pancakes (L) is shown in this composite photo beside the same dish as served in its SM Megamall branch (R).

MANILA - Diners slowly spin their plates to catch soft yellow light from overhead lamps at Sunnies Cafe, a restaurant known more for its celebrity owners than a signature dish, one weekend lunch hour.

What it lacks in rave reviews for its brunch and comfort food menu, Sunnies Cafe makes up for with style - pastel blues and pinks, pale wood fixtures, marble tables and water glasses that are anything but utilitarian.

For millennials who want to leave a trail of pretty pictures on their social media feeds, a restaurant has to be "Instagrammable," said Eric Dee, president of Foodee Global Concepts that operates Sunnies.

"Dati pwede pang masarap lang ang food (Before, it's enough that the food is delicious). Now, that won't fly," Dee told ABS-CBN News.

"They look for these aspirational brands, places where people want to be seen because they want to get that (sense of) acceptance and success," Dee said.

The restaurant's SM Megamall branch is just that, where every table is visible to the rush of shoppers. An entire wall stacked with fashion magazines punctuates its proposition as a place to be seen.

Restaurant operators shared to ABS-CBN how to create the backdrop for the perfect food post.



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Restaurant owners need to know how to make food shine using different light sources, including sun rays, Dee said.

"When we're building restaurants, we also take into consideration the proper lighting. White light, yellow light, diffused light, up light, middle light, we think about these," Dee said.



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A well-plated meal makes it look more appetizing, ensuring more likes and shares, said actor Richard Yap, co-owner of Chinese-Singaporean restaurant Wang Fu.

"It (place) has to be Instagrammable, but the food presentation should be more Instagrammable," Yap said.


Unique furniture and dining ware make a restaurant instantly recognizable, a plus for millennials who want their followers to know exactly where they are.

"Making your cups, spoons and other items consistent with the brand is important," Dee said.


Millennial diners are also looking for interactive or visual experiences they can share with their friends. Cooking food in front of diners make the wait more interesting.

"More than food, it's the experience. Rather than looking at the prices lang, it's the experience: I got more than what I paid for," Dee said.



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Service staff are no longer just food servers. To millennial customers, they are expected to be masters of their products and even amateur photographers.

"We train people how to take photos of customers," said Suyen Corp general manager Jude Ong.

"For waiters, it's about presenting the food properly and giving them (customers) more information about what they are eating because there is more appreciation from them (millennials)," said Sunnies cafe's Dee.

While aesthetics and gimmicks generate buzz, Ong reminded restaurant owners of the basics to enable them to outlive the hype.

"To bring them (customers) back, you go back to the basics: good food and good service," Ong said.