“What should I post?” Social media tips from top chefs

It’s no secret that rising rates, higher bills, and staffing woes are taking a big toll on the Australian hospitality industry, which, outside of Europe, is the biggest in the world per capita

That’s why we’ve crafted this special series of articles based on our findings from MICE (Melbourne International Coffee Expo) 2024, where expert industry panelists gathered to speak about how cafe and venue owners can run better businesses.  

In Part 6 - we talk social media. How it can help your venue - and when you might not need it. 

We speak to Dom Gattermayr, the Co-Owner & Chef of Florian and Juniper, two cafes in Melbourne that have people queuing, as well as some intel from Chris Hamburger who’s the Director & Chef at Stagger Lee’s, one of Melbourne’s long-standing inner-north staples. 

Finally, we also get comments from Ashly Hicks, the Executive Chef at the Darling Group, a hospitality company that owns and operates some of Melbourne’s most popular venues including top Paddock, Higher Ground, and The Kettle Black. 

How much should you consider social media when you’re creating a menu?

There’s no getting away from it these days, social media has the power to drive customers to your venue - and used correctly, it can mean a lucrative menu and queues out the door. 

Ashly Hicks, who is the Executive Chef at the Darling Group says it’s important to at least consider how a dish photographs and what the demographics are in a particular area. He references Kettle Black in South Melbourne, an area with a younger median age and a lot of young professionals with disposable income. “If we put an Instagram-worthy dish on Kettle Black’s menu, then there’s queues - it goes bananas.” 

Ash says the idea is to draw customers in with that Instagram-worthy dish which will then encourage them to try the rest of the items on the menu.



Will social media always make or break a dish?

Chris Hamburger from Stagger Lee’s says that it’s important not to forget the basics of hospitality. 

“I cooked overseas with a chef called Anthony Rose and his motto was ‘just make it good.’ His food was really rustic but it was full of flavour….and it ate well, but it didn’t always photograph well.” 

Chris understands that Instagram has a big impact on the food ordered in a particular venue, but says that the “life of it” is what it’s about for him. “People coming in and swooning over a dish and saying ‘that’s amazing.’ It has to be about that, it can’t be all about the flowers on the porridge or whatever.” 

Ash concurs: “We don't think about it all that much either. We've really slowed down Instagram stuff. I think the dishes speak for themselves.” 


How can social media help you launch a venue?

For Dom Gattermayr, social media was an important part of the launch for her cafe Florian - partly because doors opened in 2021, during the Melbourne lockdown.

“There was no other way for people to know about us, so it was really integral to our business.” It was on Instagram that Dom could post about the special sandwiches and treats that were available to a lockdown-weary crowd, and it’s likely these posts brought her much more business than she otherwise would have had. 

However, while Instagram has been instrumental for her business, Dom really believes in authentic, organic posts. “If we ever post a photo that's done by a professional, it does not do well.”

What sort of imagery works on social media?

Dom says that people want to see images that don’t look too curated. “If we do something on the fly, a photo on a stainless steel bench - people love that.” 

“Some people find Instagram really tricky, and I don't think it's the key [for a successful venue] necessarily, but I think if you nail your own tone, that really helps.” 

“I've just been overseas and someone else ran into Instagram. They did a really good job, but you could just tell it wasn't the same because of the tone of voice that's being used and the way that the captions are written.”



Dom also says that a well-stocked, good looking cabinet is almost more important than Instagram - if only because it might be the thing your customers are taking photos of. 

“If your cabinet looks bad, that's what people see when they first come. I always walk around the other side and look at the cabinet as a customer. If all you’ve got is a sad sandwich with lettuce sliding down the front, just pull it out. Don't have that as the thing that's on offer.”

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