Still, not everyone is happy with popular restaurants on Instagram, and sometimes it can invite lots of unexpected headaches. Cookie Do, a New York eatery with more than 180,000 Instagram followers, was recently slapped with a class-action lawsuit that claims the company’s health-conscious ingredients make people sick.
Separately, a flippant Instagram post about a bullet hole landed the owner of Summerhill, a Brooklyn bar, in hot water with her neighbors — all of which underscores how social media can be equal parts blessing and curse for businesses that rely too heavily on them.
Sometimes, the Instagram hype falls short of reality. Dalila Thomas, the Texas-based founder and editor at “Starving On a Budget,” told CNBC in a recent interview that the engineered perfection “gets old,” especially if the food is lackluster.
“Everything in Dallas requires driving about 25 minutes away and when you get there, you wait, and sometimes [the food] is not good,” she said. Instead, Thomas prefers local restaurants that may be social media savvy, but have solid menu fare.
Still, some establishments have learned to leverage social media to their advantage. One of those is Chicago-based Nini’s Deli, which uses used social media to take a 40-year old local legacy international.
“Last summer, I met people from Taiwan; we have customers from London, Paris, and Mexico City,” Juan-Elias Riesco, who manages his parent’s deli, told CNBC recently. The 25 year old uses his background in graphic design and photography to enhance the shop’s social media cachet.
“When they first opened up in 1980, all of their business was local, and they did really, really good,” Riesco said about his parents, who are from Mexico and Cuba. Today, the shop has over 11,000 Instagram followers, dozens of international visitors annually, and regularly hosts celebrities like Vic Mensa and Lupe Fiasco.
Christine Couvelier, a food trend analyst, said that restaurants have to be creative to snag fickle eaters, while consumers will “want to food where they feel like the chef ‘knows them.'”
Yet at least one restauranteur thinks full-service restaurants will be a thing of the past.
“I’ve been focusing on creating fast-casual restaurants…that feel as if they’re at a fine dining restaurant” — but where they actually pay bargain prices, said Samantha Wasser, founder of By Chloe., a locally sourced NYC vegan restaurant. “People don’t really need to be waited on anymore.”