How Instagram is Influencing the Design of Toronto’s Restaurants

July 27, 2017

How Instagram is Influencing the Design of Toronto’s Restaurants

When it comes to food in Toronto, the way it looks is equally important to how it tastes.

With media outlets such as BlogTO, Narcity and Toronto Life creating content on a daily basis that revolves around food imagery, a restaurant’s ability to be visually enticing is crucial to success in Toronto.

Food on Instagram is not a new concept.  People have (literally) become famous by posting food photos on Instagram since the platform’s rise to popularity at the beginning of the decade. However, restaurants curating menu items for social media have become more and more prevalent in the last 3 years. This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been unique, photo-worthy food in the city before Instagram, but it’s been rare in the past for someone to take the TTC from Yonge & Egg to visit an ice cream shop on John Street just to take a photo to share on any social media platform.

Instagram has almost transformed social media from a platform that showed what you are doing, to becoming something that influences what you want to do. #InfuencerMarketing

Photo via @taratimes / Instagram

Instagram posts have become modern day referrals for restaurants, and their presence on social media has a large impact on success. People scroll through foodie accounts for hours, save photos of places they want to visit and then refer to these pictures when deciding on places to go.


“What do you want to do today?”

“I saw this really cool ice cream place that has doughnut cones, want to try it?

“Ya, that sounds amazing!!”

 – A conversation we’ve all had.


Insta food has become so elaborate that the New York Times did a piece on this phenomenon, titling it “unicorn food”. The name stems from Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino which clearly isn’t a flavour, but an appeal to Instagram users who are attracted to multicoloured, cutesy food items for the ‘gram.

There’s no denying escaping social media’s impact on the hospitality industry, and restauranteurs have noticed this. So how do restaurant owners use social media to attract guests to their restaurant without compromising the food from the Chefs? In the words of Baro Partner Matty Tsoumaris, “focus on the vibes.”

Casey Newton recently wrote about this in San Francisco and referred to a restaurant’s success based on how shareable their photos were on Instagram. The picture in reference was of guests taking photos of their shoes on the intricate tile design at the restaurant…something not remotely related to food.

Photo via @jennyaconnors / Instagram

In Toronto, we see parallels to this; Frings has their “6 on a wave” sign, Baro’s Frida mural is well-recognized and Lavelle’s view might be Drake’s next album cover.

When users share photos of them and their friends at a restaurant or a venue, it’s the absolute best form of marketing. It costs nothing, is incredibly influential and grows your presence online.

Photo via @hannah_parkk / Instagram

Here’s the numbers from the past 3 months on instagram for the Frida mural at Baro. These photos are from guests who have posted a photo of Frida on their accounts and have tagged Baro in the photo, mentioned us in the comments or geotagged the post.

  • Posts: 77
  • Likes (combined): 3,917
  • Comments (combined) : 890

*yes, our Marketing Manager did manually count these numbers.

If you own a restaurant or run their marketing account, there are plenty of ways to grow your Facebook and other social media accounts. When it comes to Instagram, there is nothing better for your business than previous guests posting photos from your establishment with copy that features praise.

No detail is too small to overlook. Influencer marketing from Instagram can result in guests coming in to order something without even looking at the menu.

Photo via @sweetjesus / Instagram

I just scrolled through my texts from the last 3 weeks; I’ve had 9 people text me about places they saw on an Instagram account. As mentioned earlier, it’s the absolute best form of marketing.