In an age where taking a picture of your meal is just as important as the first bite, food presentation is everything. Before diners can post their “phone eats first” snaps of your plates, their eyes and brains have a few seconds to register the question, “Is this pretty enough to show off on Instagram?” While there may be no way to decipher who has a perfect eye for food aesthetics, there are certain measures that restaurants can take to provide top-notch fare that looks good, too. Plain and simple, humans are more likely to try out a dish if it looks delicious, and slacking in the food presentation department can hinder your restaurant’s sales no matter how great your food tastes. 

If you take a look at some foodie accounts on social media, the restaurants that go above and beyond with the presentation get the most hits. That chicken cutlet and penne pizza slice that everyone is posting pictures of might not even be that good, but with the delicately placed toppings and epic cheese pull videos on Instagram, pizza lovers would be silly not to try it. Overloading dishes with cheese doesn’t have to be your thing to step up your food presentation game, though. Food presentation is just as much about the plating and food arrangement as the actual meal. Take a look at these tips for improving your restaurant’s presentation and plating techniques.

Pay Attention to Portion Size

The portion size of a meal contributes greatly to how food is presented. If your restaurant’s theme is to go big on portions, then, by all means, load those plates up! But if this is not part of your shtick, focus on serving smaller portions to leave room to decorate the plate with whatever is being served. Smaller portions make a plate look elegant, and give off a vibe that what your restaurant is serving is one of a kind. Match this with correct dishes to give your food some breathing room.

Color Your Plates Accordingly

Bold colors bring a plate to life aesthetically, and working with naturally colored foods as opposed to artificial dyes creates a sense of freshness. Use contrasting colors for your dishes to make the plate pop. For dishes that involve fresh produce, go for a vibrantly colored fruit or vegetable. Switching out green bell peppers for yellow or red might just make all the difference in your spicy Mexican salad. 

Don’t Overlook the Garnish 

Garnish and decorations on a plate can make any meal look pretty, but that shouldn’t be their only purpose. The garnish should add texture and flavor and should always be edible. For example, adding a vibrant red raspberry syrup on a plate to accompany your famous chocolate lava cake creates a playful contrast for the brown dish, but it also pairs well taste-wise. Squeeze bottles, shavers, and spoons are all useful tools to have on hand when garnishing with purpose. 

Channel Your Inner Artist

When a chef creates a new dish and is ready to add it to his menu, it’s not much different than exposing a grand painting to the world. Think of your menu as a collection of masterpieces and express yourself through your plates. Like artwork, plating has styles ranging from classic to landscape, so tailor your plate based on your vision. A mix of your own presentation and flavor techniques will establish your restaurant’s brand through food. This brand will then surely be reflected through any pictures posted on social media. 

Less is More

More so than not, refraining from piling your plates with food makes for a better dish. Overcrowding with ingredients can ruin presentation and flavor, decreasing the food’s appeal. Keep it simple when it comes to the “extras” on the plate. Additional sauces or oils that don’t contribute much to the flavor or looks of the main course are unnecessary. If needed, guests can ask for condiments to dress the meal to their liking. 

Perfecting your restaurant’s plating and presentation can take some experimenting through trial and error, but the end results will be worth it. Gaining praise for detailed food styling is not only a compliment to your establishment but also will garner free marketing through user-generated content that shows off your stuff. So pick up those styling tools and start creating with the help of these tips!