Hexagon tile that spells something clever and on brand. Printed wallpaper that’s the ideal backdrop for a creme puff/ice cream cone/taco/burger [insert any food item that can be hand-held here]. Custom-painted murals perfect for staging photo shoots. This is the state of restaurant design in the age of Instagram.
China Live: Restaurateur George Chen, the mastermind behind the luxury Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, values the importance of a picture-perfect plate (pictured above). “I thought about that well before there was even digital cameras,” Chen says with a laugh. “You always think about how your food will look when it’s plated because you eat with your eyes first.” On the flip side, he has also been disappointed by something he’s seen on social media not living up to the hype. “I can tell when I walk in if I’ve walked into the wrong place probably 80 percent of the time, 90 percent of the time, before I even have a first bite,” Chen laments.
Che Fico: “It would be disingenuous to say that there’s no thought to social media or Instagram in particular, when saying that you’re designing your restaurant,” Che Fico’s chef and co-owner David Nayfeld says. “You do look for highly Instagrammable moments. But I think to design a restaurant with only that in mind is also shortsighted, because you want to strike a balance.” Though Nayfeld and his team selected the wallpaper because they knew it would be catnip to Instagram, the choice to leave the drying salumi was both social media gold — and functional for the culinary staff.
Hotel San Francisco: The lure of Instagram popularity no doubt influenced Priscilla Dosiou, the owner-designer of the exuberant new Financial District hotspot, yet she insists that wasn’t at the top of her mind. “The design was really about creating a space that is exciting and something that feels like you haven’t been there before, that you haven’t seen anything like it before. I think that makes for a really nice experience.” With bold wallpaper in the bathroom, dreamy neon signs and a rhinestone boomerang, Hotel San Francisco arrived ready to launch a zillion selfies.
Sorrel: Sure, the food and drink at a restaurant creates memorable moments — but never discount the power of ambience. Savvy restaurateurs understand this and are able to manipulate it to their advantage. Alex Hong and Colby Heiman of Sorrel, a buzzy new eatery on Sacramento Street, couldn’t have said it better: “Unique and beautiful design can dramatically increase the perceived value of a restaurant. If design is done well, guests will remember how they felt in a space and want to return to that feeling, even if they don’t remember every dish they enjoyed.” But if they didn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?