New York Restaurants Have Informal Ban on Food Photos

New York restaurants ask guests to stop snapping at the dining table.

ByABC News
January 24, 2013, 10:45 AM

Jan. 25, 2013— -- Attention, foodies: Restaurant owners are asking you to stop snapping photos of your gourmet brie cheeseburger with truffle oil-drenched fries.

The days of simply dining and enjoying have changed. More and more restaurant-goers are pulling out their smartphones or digital cameras and taking photos of elaborate entrees and dishes at New York City restaurants.

This growing trend is commonly known as foodstagram, a photo taken on a cellphone and quickly posted online.

"With the advent of social media, it just became that people like food porn," said Steven Hall, PR representative for Bouley restaurant. "People really love looking at pictures of food."

Some restaurants are cracking down on snap-happy guests. The New York Times reports that owners of upscale restaurants like Fat Duck, Le Bernardin and Per Se "discourage flash photography" by their guests.

Gerald San Jose, media manager for Per Se, said the restaurant "does not have a no-photography policy, although if guests do photograph, Per Se asks that they refrain from using flash and be discreet so as to not disturb the experience of other guests."

Le Bernardin agrees, saying, "Flash photography disturbs other diners."

David Bouley, the head chef at Bouley, does not discourage photography, but instead invites guests into his kitchen for pictures. Hall said Bouley doesn't "really enforce it. If there are people that are taking pictures then they take pictures in the kitchen." "He [Bouley] makes customers a part of the dining experience," said Hall. "He's always welcomed people into his kitchen. They love it. He loves it."

So far, the informal ban has not made its way to the New York State Restaurant Association, which includes 5,000 restaurants in the New York metro area. Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the NYSRA, says the issue is not something that's on the organization's radar.

"At our level, it's not something we're looking to regulate or weigh in on in any way," said Moesel. "Some restaurants would encourage people to share the dishes that they serve there, while others might want to make sure the dining experience is more private."

Private yes, but off limits? Not entirely. Although more and more guests are taking photos of their plated inspirations, Hall said he believes it depends on the setting, but "there is such a thing as the right time and the right place."

"People have kind of forgotten their manners," said Hall. "Your food is getting cold, your ice cream is melting, all so that they can get the lighting for their picture. It disrupts the flow of service."

One establishment that does ban photos altogether -- not in the name of food but for the sake of privacy -- is SoHo House New York in the city's Meatpacking District, an exclusive members-only club.

In an email to, Jacki Spillane of SoHo House said, "SoHo House New York does have a no photography policy within the Club. SoHo House is a private members club, we have this policy to respect and maintain our members' privacy."

And at Tocqueville restaurant on Union Square, you can't use your phone at all because the building is made entirely of metal. Tocqueville proprietor Joann Makovitzky says because the restaurant is located in a "dead zone" cell reception is blocked.

"My philosophy is it's not your own dining room, you're there with many other diners," said Makovitzky. "People are there for their own dining experience and anything you do to infringe on that experience, we frown on."

Hall said, "They don't want ringing. They made their restaurant sort of a respite. You can still use your camera phone to take pictures. But once your phone isn't ringing you're not compelled to take it out of your pocket."

"Everybody wants everybody in the world to know where they are," Hall said, so fancy foodstagrams continue on photo newsfeeds.

"We don't want to stop it, but we want to control it," he said.