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The Not-So-Secret Secrets of Making Instagram Gold

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We're living in a time when it's hard not to know what to expect before you get to a restaurant. Find the website of a café you've heard about recently and you'll just as quickly find its menu, then be hurled onto its Instagram page, where you'll see photos of its most beautifully-positioned dishes posted by the legions who've made the pilgrimage (myself included).

Constant image-sharing means fewer surprises, and it also means that trends in design and in food (some of these, I fully admit to reveling in... whoops!) boil over as fast as hot milk—so fast that it's hard to know where they began in the first place. And that it's hard to remember a time before them.

Spicy Egg Salad

A photo posted by Mr. Donahue's (@mrdonahues) on

And so scrolling through Instagram—if you follow the "in-the-know" in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Austin, London, Toronto...—is like looking through soft light-, marble surface-, creamy latte-, and drippy egg-colored glasses. You don't even need to check the account to know that there will be probably be succulents.

Places without this aesthetic (or that only operate in hours with little natural light—dive bars, I'm looking at you!) might not get as much attention, but I like to think that those remain the hidden treasures.

If there were a trendy restaurant filter on Instagram, here's what it would look like:

  • If Michelangelo were alive today, he'd be sculpting marble surfaces with exactly the right gray to white ratio for optimizing overhead shots:
  • For more rustic, less sleek, go with wood—reclaimed preferable; planks should be rather wide.

Lunch with this girl @nicole_franzen 👌🏼

A photo posted by Max Poglia (@maxpoglia) on

  • The menu should consist, if not entirely of eggs, then mostly of eggs:

My morning: first gym, then this. So far, so good. 💪🏼🍴🍳😋

A photo posted by Patrick Janelle (@aguynamedpatrick) on

  • But God help you if there isn't toast...

A photo posted by BuvetteNYC (@buvettenyc) on

  • ...and eggs on toast.
  • In multiple iterations.


A photo posted by Christian Poschmann (@theposch) on

  • If you do not serve avocados, do not expect your follower count to exceed 10,000.
  • Salads should look tie-dyed.

Lunch today 😋🍴💕 repost @brunchonly 🙏🏼

A photo posted by Café Henrie (@cafehenrie) on

  • And if you can fit all of that into one frame, that's ideal. (Please note matcha latte peaking in at the 12-o'clock hour—we'll get to that later.)

What better way to celebrate #MothersDay than a Two Hands brunch! 👋🏼 #HappyMothersDay @alifewortheating

A photo posted by Two Hands (@twohandsnyc) on

  • Every latte should be served with subtle latte art (on aforementioned marble surface).


A photo posted by Molly Tavoletti | NYC (@mollytavoletti) on

  • For matcha lattes, you'll get bonus points.

Banana bread and #MondaymorningMatcha for breakfast

A photo posted by CHALAIT (@chalaitnyc) on

  • A latte (iced) with a marble surface (round) and a pop of color as well as the right amount of neutral tones in many different materials? It's perfect.

the #solution to a loooong day 💪🏼☕️

A photo posted by Marni Danielle Harvey (@styleontherise) on

  • Introduce adorable drawings and typefaces.
  • Food should fit comfortably within the frame and be naturally graphic and saturated...
  • and/or easily held in one hand (please note: egg on toast, a variation):

Saturday is looking pretty good from our perspective. 📷: @bellybible

A photo posted by Black Seed Bagels (@blackseedbagels) on

  • And in that regard, a good floor is just as important as a good surface:
  • One last thing: cute succulents!

Such decor

A photo posted by Heather Warning (@hjwarning) on

🐨 brunch @ a little Aussie/bedstuy gem

A photo posted by Lizzy 💭 (@lizzyvogan) on

While I'm happily seduced by the tactics listed above (and have reproduced many in my own apartment), even I could use some change: Dear restaurant designers and PR teams, where are your new ideas?

What are you tired of seeing on Instagram? What do you want to see more of? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Tags: Ephemera