To Win on Instagram, Consider the Tabletop

Two pairs of sunglasses, two glasses of sparkling wine, two small dishes of salty popcorn, and a face-down iPhone are shot from above. The lighting is perfect, natural; the scene, familiar.

It could be a friendly weeknight aperitif or a light Saturday-afternoon snack anywhere in the country, except that there, on the crisp white tabletop just at the edge of the photo’s frame, are three precisely lettered words. “Hello, old friend,” is the tagline for the Riddler, an Eater Award-winning Champagne bar in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, a phrase the restaurant loves so much it had the tables special-made to include it.

The Riddler is a precisely designed space. A popping Champagne bottle is painted on the wall outside the restaurant. There are tufted benches, vintage Champagne buckets and silver trays, Russian coupes. But the tables are the showstopper. As restaurant operators design for the Instagram age, they’re thinking about how the overhead table shot (you know, the one you take stealthily, reaching your hand as high as you can to include everyone’s plate and maybe a friend’s casual hand) can include a calling card.

This is branding as design. What can make your marble bar-topped, Le Labo soap-stocked, vintage-plated small-plates restaurant stand out not only in the minds of your customers, but on their Instagram grids? The answer, a trend in the making, might just lie in the past: heavy, baked enamel tabletops that have been made for centuries, but are getting a fresh, ’grammable update.