February 6, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Serving up a photo op

From clam shacks to five-star destinations, smartphone-toting diners increasingly are shooting what's on their plates, a trend that the restaurateurs we spoke with are, for the most part, OK with.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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A diner uses her iPhone to photograph a serving of butter-poached lobster risotto at David’s Opus Ten in Portland’s Monument Square.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of oysters at Eventide in Portland. Perdue never uses a flash and always asks the wait staff for permission before using her camera. Other photos taken by Perdue can be seen below.

Photo by Meredith Perdue

Additional Photos Below

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"We have had a couple of people come in here with extremely professional set-ups, where they have someone standing on the other end of the balcony with a remote flash and they're taking a picture," Verrill said. "At that point, it's easy to say, 'This is a little too much, you're bothering diners.' But for the most part, it's just people's iPhones or their point-and-shoot camera."


Destination restaurants where people celebrate birthdays and anniversaries say they expect diners to pull out smart phones or cameras at some point during the evening.

Grand chef Jonathan Cartwright of the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk said that people come to the restaurant, which has a dress code, "already in that mindset where they need to mind their P's and Q's."

"Most people come to celebrate a special occasion, so they want a little bit of memory of that," he said. "As long as they're not disturbing other guests, we're quite happy to let them go ahead and do that."

If there is an issue, it's up to the maitre d' to deal with it. Deciding when to step in can be a tough call, Cartwright said. When does too much hospitality for one table create an inhospitable environment for another?

"If someone's too loud at a table, you don't want to damper their evening because they're out celebrating," Cartwright said. "But if they're disturbing other people, it's a tough call for a restaurant manager to make. How much are you disturbing other people, and how much are you going to ruin their night by asking them to pull it back a little bit? With pictures, it's the same thing."

Chef Sam Hayward of Fore Street said policing diners taking photos of food with their smart phone seems "unfriendly and punitive." He said Fore Street diners regularly want to take photos of their celebrations and of the layout of the restaurant, which with its open kitchen and wood-burning oven is all "flame and action."

But sometimes a line has to be drawn.

"Once or twice over the years, I recall diners coming right up to the front line to capture images of the wood-burning oven or the turnspit, and that really has to be discouraged," he said. "That's an area that has to be kept clear. The servers use it to pick up plates and speak with the expeditor, and the traffic and equipment there are heavy, hot and sharp. It's really a safety issue."

Arrows in Ogunquit has had a longtime "no cellphones in the dining room" policy, but chef/co-owner Clark Frasier says the rule extends back to the early days of cellphones, when "people were obnoxious about their use."

Frasier said he's never been annoyed by people taking photos of their food or each other. "For a lot of people, dinner at Arrows is a special occasion," he said. "I like that part of it We just don't want people yakking on the phone: 'Hey, we've got to seal this deal. I sent you the email, and blah blah blah,' like it's an airport lounge or something."


Meredith Perdue and her partner Michael Cain, who write a food and travel blog called Map & Menu, are careful to mind their manners when visiting local restaurants.

Perdue, a professional photographer, never uses a flash when she photographs her meals and always politely asks the wait staff if it's OK to use her camera.

"We actually make sure to go at off times so we're not super-intrusive," she said. "If a place opens at 11 or 11:30 for lunch, we're usually the first people through the door. That's our own comfort just as much as not being a disruption. I feel like I'm on display if I'm photographing my meal, so it's more comfortable for me to go when it's a quieter time."

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Additional Photos

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of a breakfast scramble at Local 188 in Portland

Photo by Meredith Perdue

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Blogger Meredith Perdue shared a photo that she took of Brussels sprouts at Boda in Portland.

Photo by Meredith Perdue

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“You eat it, it’s gone. So how do you remember it? Well, take a picture,” said local restaurateur David Turin. This dish is red wine-poached pear, sweet ricotta, with a sweet balsamic redux at his David’s Opus Ten.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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