I do contract work for the delivery apps in this area and I often get a lot of questions about how to prepare for one of these shoots. I also see ways for restaurants to represent themselves in a better way so I wrote this post to help everyone.
- Go into the shoot with the proper attitude. You have an excellent opportunity to market yourself and differentiate yourself from your competition. This process is not simply meant to waste food or to cost you money. You can give the extra food to your staff, a favorite customer, or save it for yourself for later. Delivery apps are now 10% of restaurant sales and they are growing. I liken them to “amazon for restaurants.” If you do a good job with your food and photos you will gain an edge and rank up higher in the apps and gain more sales and more new customers.
- If you are mad about giving up a percentage of your money to the apps, rethink your menu strategy. Put on some creative combo menu choices that appeal to the demographic of people in your area with up-to-date pricing so you earn the money back, cover your costs, and make more profit. Remember that the delivery app market is a whole new sales channel and you did not have to do any marketing to bring in these sales. When you think about how hard you have to work to market to bring in customers the delivery apps are a great idea. Combo meals always make more money and they are easier for a customer using an app because they can order a good deal with everything they want for one click and do not have to scroll around while the kids are screaming for their food. Use the app one day to see how it works. Make it easier for your customers to want to find you and spend more money!
- Do not use customer food during the photo shoot. It makes a very poor experience for the waiter, the customer, and the photographer plus the photos are never the best. Customers do not want to watch someone hover over their food with a camera, the photographer feels irritated and rushed, the food does not look its best, the waiter or waitress is stressed, and you might even get a bad Yelp score. I had a table threaten to walk out and they sent all the food back to the kitchen and left bad reviews on Yelp while the waitress cried.
- Take the time to prepare a few good dishes in advance. The maximum number is ten but you can make three to five good ones. The best restaurants have 10 items ready when I walk in the door. I had one restaurant prepare 16 dishes and let me pick the best ones. The outcome was amazing and since I was so proud of their effort I gave them free photos of the extra items. Their food was beautiful and their restaurant was busy. No wonder! Food can sit for a lot longer than you think and still look great in the shoot. Trying to make items “fresh” while the photographer waits, the customers order, the staff interrupts, the phone rings, someone calls in sick, and the delivery truck comes is not the best strategy unless you can assemble your items quickly.
- Prepare your most popular items that make the most money and look the best. People always ask me what to prepare. And my answer is to look at your most popular items and think about your profit. Think about what people in your area are searching for and include those items. Look on the app at your most popular item list. Think about the money. It does not make sense to put up a $2 glass of tea or $3 basket of naan when you can feature a great item that will make you a lot of money over time like your best chicken entree!
- Be organized and know what you are going to shoot and how you are going to plate it. It is not an all day shoot where you can shoot the same thing over and over to see what you like best or change your mind and take all these items away and add more. The photographer has an art directive from the delivery app company and can style your shot quickly using the right ratio for the app. The photographer also has a limited amount of time and gets paid for up to 10 items, so everyone has to work efficiently.
- Make sure you are presenting the food that is on your delivery app menu and give the same title of the dish to the photographer. This ensures that all of your photos will be posted quickly. Otherwise the editors may cause a huge delay or discard your photos. One restaurant worked hard to do 10 dishes but only one photo was posted. The reason? The delivery menu was in Vietnamese but they gave an English list to the photographer. Make a list and be accurate and this won’t happen to you.
- Offer a few props like sauces, fresh herbs, nice china, folded napkins, rocks, flowers, baskets, or whatever you have that makes you “you”. This will show that you are a distinguished and professional establishment that puts your best foot forward for your customer. Always use plates and not fast food containers.
- If you can’t be there, your employees will do a fine job! They are the ones who prepare the food every day and they can give the dishes to the photographer who is trained to photograph food in a very pleasing manner. It is better to shoot than not to shoot. Today and right now is always the best time! Tomorrow can be even worse. And speaking of time try to pick the time before or after lunch or right before dinner. Do not pick a time that is in the middle of the rush. Be a little flexible because the photographer has to fight traffic, find parking, and put things in the order of the map. I often call my restaurants and ask for a little change in time so I can limit driving and spend it in the restaurant working with them. I truly love to work with the restaurant staffs to help them shoot their very best work!