Digital Food Communities: How the Food Industry is Using Social Media to Create a Virtual Kitchen

Food has a way of bringing individuals together. While we do eat to live, it’s also a way to meet with friends, connect with family and re-charge with co-workers, all because food creates a common ground that provides comfort and creates conversation. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re witnessing what it’s like to not gather at restaurants or our homes with friends and family or take breaks from work to eat with our colleagues. Restaurants, chefs and other players in the food industry are deeply feeling the effects of this temporary shift and inability to be a gathering place. But how are they combating it and how are they communicating with their audiences?

At a time when food professionals’ livelihoods, establishments and passion for bringing people together through food are challenged, they are finding unique ways to re-connect with consumers in the digital social space. Even though the industry strongly relies on in-person engagement, they’ve found a way to connect with their audiences on the daily by creating virtual meeting places via social media through Instagram videos and live stories.

From well-respected chefs like Ina Garten and Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi, to food publications like Epicurious, and Padilla client, Prosciutto di Parma, we’re seeing resilience in the ways they’re engaging. They’re turning their social platforms into virtual communities, where live videos bring people to a central place where they can share, learn and enjoy.  

Celebrity Chefs

Well-known chefs Ina Garten and Christina Tosi are bringing followers together every day to provide tutorials, recipes and some much-needed comic relief and positivity. Ina took to Instagram to offer her help in the kitchen, asking followers to share what’s in their pantries so she could help them create meals from what they have. She actively engages daily, providing relevant recipes and tips, and even hosts a happy hour on Instagram Live, keeping her followers engaged and entertained.

Christina Tosi, famed owner of Milk Bar, well-known for her unique sweet treats, started the #bakingclub, which she hosts every day at 2 PM EST. She shares ingredients the day before without giving away what the treat is, and hits Instagram live for everyone to follow along. Audience members can cook along and ask questions, creating a place where complete strangers can join in one place to enjoy.

Food Publications

Epicurious took to Instagram to announce the release of “Cooking Through It,” their new 10-Day Meal Plan that provides a flexible grocery list and recipes with easily interchangeable ingredients. This plan caters to what people have in their pantries, while adhering to the recommendation that we only grocery shop every ten days to cut down on the frequency we leave our homes. But they didn’t stop there. Starting today, April 1st, Epicurious editors will cook through the plan and share their cooking via Instagram. While everyone is stuck at home, they developed a digital place for everyone to gather and cook together. Users can follow the hashtag #CookingThroughIt to join in the daily meals and share their own.

Padilla Clients

Padilla client Prosciutto di Parma gathered prosciutto lovers in one place today, April 1st, for an Instagram Live tutorial. Eater D.C. recently featured Pitango, a Prosciutto di Parma specialist, and highlighted the company for selling whole prosciutto legs. The Prosciutto di Parma team proactively jumped on the opportunity to offer individuals who purchased legs a free, live slicing tutorial on Instagram Live with prosciutto expert Francesco Lupo. In doing so, the team created a new opportunity for the client, along with a virtual meeting place for people to come together and learn.

These virtual communities don’t fix the economic challenges this industry currently faces, but it’s showing us why the work the food and beverage industry does is so important and why coming together is crucial to getting out of this stronger. It’s also pushing us to ask the question, will COVID-19 change the way chefs and restaurateurs integrate digital plans? During this time we’re kept apart, let’s encourage clients to find unique ways to bring audiences together online.

If you’re struggling to think of creative ways to engage with your food and beverage brand’s social audience, we’re here to help.

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