Cafes such as the Grounds of Alexandria are now working with stylists to Instagram-ready their cafes. The result is free advertising across social networks, but is it destroying the dining experience?
At the Grounds of Alexandria you don't just order a juice. Instead you wander over to a vintage wooden cart adorned with hand-painted signs and filled with punnets of fresh fruit to place your juice order.
The whole thing is so beautiful looking that you might just find it hard to resist whipping your phone out to take a quick picture.
It's moments like this which have helped the Sydney cafe rank as the sixth most Instagrammed spot in Australia last year. The Grounds of Alexandria beat the MCG and St Kilda beach in the rankings, calculated on the basis of the most popular geotags.
The Grounds' Instagram aesthetics are fine tuned by staff which include two full time social media managers, a horticulturist and a stylist.
Owner Jack Hanna says the cafe's chefs work really closely with the stylist to make sure everything served tastes great and is also plated to look good.
The Grounds' has 41,000 Instagram followers and counting but Hanna says the cafe's presence on Instagram is mainly driven by its customers posting photos to their own feeds.
Some of these customers are superstars on Instagram with thousands of followers themselves.
"If someone from fashion like [Jessica Stein of] Tuula Vintage comes in and eats at our establishment that really helps us drive traffic to our Instagram but we certainly don't invite them to come in," Hanna says.
Hanna says popularity on Instagram is just a byproduct of the cafe's emphasis on presentation.
"We try to be different," he says. "That provides a talking point and a talking point has lots of people taking photos of it."
Hanna says The Grounds' liberal use of Instagram catnip in the form of upcycled jam jars and resident farmyard animals is not a deliberate ploy for likes.
"When something is really beautiful people will want to take a photo of it," he says.
"We definitely don't design something just to be Instagrammed."
While there's no stylist on hand at Melbourne's Combi, the Elwood beachside cafe has nevertheless managed to develop a cult Instagram fan base with 28,000 followers.
Owner Penny Loughnan says the cafe only started using Instagram last year.
"We don't really use it for marketing we were just doing it for fun," she says.
"We started with 50 people [following] and it has gone a bit crazy."
Loughnan says her background in fashion and her partner Anthony Baker's, interest in photography help when it comes to creating Combi's Instagram posts.
"I'm really into things looking beautiful," she says. "It's not for Instagram it's just the way I like things."
Loughnan says she was hesitant to use Instagram at first but is now a convert due to the social network's ability to drive sales at the food business.
"If we want to move something and it's on special, like our raw lemon cheesecake, it will pretty much be sold out in a few hours," Loughnan says.
"Some days we hold off on posting on the weekends especially because if you do put a post up it draws more attention and it goes a bit crazy."
Loughnan says while Instagram has been great for Combi she doesn't use the social network personally.
"I'm pretty private like that," she says.
Hanna can also see the downside of Instagram.
"Often I see a table of four and the first thing they do is take out their phones to take photos and they miss the experience by trying to share it with their networks rather than the people across the table from them," he says.
But there's no chance Hanna will follow the lead of restaurants in France and the United States which have recently banned diners from taking photographs.
"Instagram has been amazing for us," Hanna says.
Diners are increasingly focussed on sharing images of food on social media rather than enjoying the experience. Photograph: Alexander Ayer / Barcroft USA/Alexander Ayer / Barcroft USA