The advent of Instagram has revolutionised Hong Kong’s dining culture. The nation’s Generation Z comprises people born between the late 1990s and the preliminary 2010s, who represent 22 percent of the entire population of 1.6 million people who are accustomed to using smartphones. Through their smartphones, Instagram or Instagramming has effectively permeated the dining culture in Hong Kong. It is common to see these digitally savvy Hong Kongers looking for ‘instagrammable’ or suitable for Instagram locations to dine or seeking to capture the most ‘instagrammable’ photos of their food. The widespread usage of Instagram continues to influence Hong Kong’s dining habits and practices by maintaining traditions, as well as infusing new trends in tandem with the changing world.
The habit of sharing photos of memorable items and events via Instagram has permeated the modern world. Instagramers across various demographics ranging from the young to the old and from men to women share traditional and modern cuisines, as well as trendy dining locations. Indeed, Instagram’s popularity is unstoppable in countries with a large population of compromising of the youth, such as Hong Kong. A recent report published by The GuardianNewspaper indicated that restaurants across the world are taking serious account of the influence of Instagram photos in shaping the menu for their guests. The newspaper gave a great example of a US restaurant chain that hired an Instagram influencer for consultancy at a fee of $750,000 (Lee et al., 2021) so that it would benefit from new ideas of presenting dishes in a better photogenic manner that millions of Instagram users would share.
Hong Kong and Macau have witnessed a spike in posting photos featuring meals on Instagram. The Instagramming craze has inspired restaurants to prioritise making their dishes Instagram-worthy. One popular restaurant keen on catering to its social media clientele recently launched Tycoon Tann barbecue with modern Chinese delicacies created by its kitchen and marketing teams. Hong Kong and Macau have witnessed a spike in posting photos featuring meals on Instagram. The Instagramming craze has inspired restaurants to prioritise making their dishes Instagram-worthy. One popular restaurant keen on catering to its social media clientele recently launched Tycoon Tann with modern Chinese delicacies created by its kitchen and marketing teams (Williams, 2015). Many other restaurants in Hong Kong are capitalising on Instagram’s growing presence and popularity to market their attractive menus, emphasising the presentation of colourful videos and photos of their dining venues and nice plates. Some of the notable Instagram worthy dining locations in Hong Kong include Starbucks Hong Kong, Fu Lu Shou, and Sevva. Notably, SEVVA is famed for its unique outdoor rooftop that offers an iconic spot for visitors to have a 360-degree angle view the spectacular Victoria Harbour and take Instagram pictures of famous skyscrapers in Hong Kong. Interestingly, many popular restaurants in Hong Kong have Instagram photo galleries on their websites to update potential and return customers about their menus.
Tycoon Tann’s barbecue exemplifies a Hong Kong restaurant that capitalises upon Instagram to enliven its cuisine and dining culture. The restaurant prides itself in preparing and presenting delicacies that will make the guests take a picture. This is a plus because it serves as a marketing strategy for the restaurant. The Tycoon Tann pork is barbecued and presented on a plate set over a warmer to keep the food hot while guests take snaps and post them on Instagram. Similarly, the restaurant has the gigantic rice ball christened “The Pearl of the Dragon” with a strong visual impact on Instagram users.
Instagram integrates the traditional dining culture with the modern one giving a comprehensive experience to diners in Hong Kong. The examples of Tycoon Tann’s services described above reveal that Instagram is transforming the food experience by enhancing enjoyment through taking pictures and videos, preferring to go out dining and conversing with friends, family, and colleagues, instead of locking up oneself in the house, which seems rather old fashioned and dull (Zhang, et al., 2011). Interestingly, diners may take between 5 and 20 minutes taking photos and videos of the food, which may disrupt the rhythm of the different courses, but this enhances rather than dampens the overall experience.
Instagram has played a crucial role in capturing Hong Kong’s traditional cuisine and dining, as well as, the transformations they have endured in recent times. Hong Kong’s cuisine consists of a fusion of Western and Eastern delicacies and a myriad of delightful culinarians that capture local flavours that make the nation a famed Gourmet Paradise. Ranging from simple, mouthwatering foods and drinks to the fulfilling gourmet experience in eateries and restaurants that feature exotic Chinese tastes, food culture in Hong Kong reflects the socioeconomic lifestyle changes in the nation for the past century. Despite being a recent technological advancement, Instagram has captured these delightful cuisines and moments of Hong Kong dining and exposed them to the global audience. Indeed, the successes of restaurants and cuisines, as well as the changing tastes, mark the differences in traditional and modern expectations, as influenced by Instagram and shape the memory of Hong Kongers.
Adaptive Structuration Theory
The Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) is a school of thought that illustrates group communication. This approach, pioneered by Anthony Gidden through his structuralism concept and developed by Poole Scott, describes how organisations or communities develop structures to adapt to technology. With reference to Instagram or social media, Poole’s research work demonstrates that AST applies to technological applications in shaping group decision making, collaborative technologies, and support systems (Harris et al., 2005). Importantly, Poole’s AST challenged the linear perspective about communication that suggested a predictable chain of subsequent events in favour of examining group communication as more complicated and requiring members to intentionally utilise specific resources and adapt rules to achieve its objectives. AST plays a crucial role as a model for examining the function of information technology advancement in organisational or community change.
Instagram has caused a significant transformation in the Hong Kong food culture, as illustrated through the Adaptive Structuration Theory. Traditional Hong Kong cuisine had hitherto not received a global audience prior to the advent and increasing popularity of Instagram. This new technology continues to shape the way Hong Kongers and the world embrace indigenous cuisines, dining manners, expectations, and how restaurants and other popular eateries respond to the changing trends. Adaptive Structuration Theory explains the underlying structural and technological components that emerge in people’s actions, behaviours, and habits to interact seamlessly with this technology (Lee et al., 2007). Therefore, Adaptive Structuration Theory illustrates how Hong Kongers interact with Instagram photos, messages, and videos to shape their dining culture that comprises cuisine practices, preparations, and events.
Instagram shapes decision making in line with the Adaptive Structuration Theory. This positivist perspective emphasises that Hong Kongers make rational decisions regarding cuisine choices, table mannerisms, and events that do not erode the esteemed cultural dining practices, such as eating together with relatives. Notably, according to AST, social rules, structures, and resources provided by technology, in this case, Instagram, intertwine consistently with each other to shape and integrate traditional Hong Kong dining culture to new trends. Therefore, Instagram inspires creativity, satisfaction, efficiency, and desired change among individuals and communities. Failure to incorporate Instagram in Hong Kong dining and menus shows a lack of commitment to infuse technology, which leads to undesirable results, inefficiency, and redundancy in food and dining choices, expectations, and preferences.
Look Better Than Taste
The counterproductive effect of Instagram is its overemphasis on l the often shadows taste. Customers may often complain about an over or undercooked dish because of the pressure they put on restaurants to give them time to take Instagram photos and videos. This may seem an excuse for poor preparation, but guests often take so much time snapping and posting the dishes on Instagram before actually sitting down to eat (Teo & Collinson, 2019). Indeed, a dish may look amazing that it attracts a strong influence on Instagram, but the downside emerges if the same dish tastes awful. Consequently, Hong Kongers expect chefs to create a balance between the look and taste experience of their menus. However, looks on Instagram appear more important than taste to the modern diners, whereas the opposite applied to the traditional Hong Kong dinner culture.
Instagram has played a crucial role in capturing Hong Kong’s traditional cuisine and dining, as well as the transformations they have endured in recent times. Hong Kong’s cuisine consists of a fusion of Western and Eastern delicacies and a myriad of delightful culinarians that capture local flavours that make the nation a famed Gourmet Paradise. Ranging from simple, mouthwatering foods and drinks to the fulfilling gourmet experience in eateries and restaurants that feature exotic Chinese tastes, food culture in Hong Kong reflects the socioeconomic lifestyle changes in the nation for the past century. Despite being a recent technological advancement, Instagram has captured these delightful cuisines and moments of Hong Kong dining and exposed them to the global audience. Indeed, the successes of restaurants and cuisines, as well as, the changing tastes mark the differences in traditional and modern expectations, as influenced by Instagram and shape the memory of Hong Kongers.
Harris, P., Rettie, R., & Cheung, C. K. (2005). Adoption and usage of m-commerce: A cross-cultural comparison of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 6(3), 210-224.
Lee, I., Choi, B., Kim, J., & Hong, S. J. (2007). Culture-technology fit: Effects of cultural characteristics on the post-adoption beliefs of mobile Internet users. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 11-51.
Lee, P. Y., Koseoglu, M. A., Qi, L., Liu, E. C., & King, B. (2021). The sway of influencer marketing: Evidence from a restaurant group. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 98, 103022.
Teo, N. S. Y., & Collinson, S. L. (2019). Instagram and risk of rumination and eating disorders: An Asian perspective. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(4), 491.
Williams, V. (2015, 3 July). Instagram food: how Hong Kong restaurants are making dishes more photogenic. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 17th March 2022 from https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/1831692/instagram-food-how-hong-kong-restaurants-are-making-dishes
Zhang, Z., Ye, Q., Zhang, Z., & Li, Y. (2011). Sentiment classification of Internet restaurant reviews written in Cantonese. Expert Systems with Applications, 38(6), 7674-7682.