Is It Rude To Take Pictures Of Food At A Fancy Restaurant?

Your meal arrives. It's masterfully plated, beautifully presented, and has combined ingredients you had never considered serving together. Instinctively, you reach for your phone to take a picture, but the waiter returns before you can angle the lens over the table. This is a five-star restaurant, you remember. Should you be snapping photos?

The digital age has changed the way we participate in our world, including at the dining table. While many business owners understand the appeal that comes from sharing photos of food, other restaurants have placed restrictions on table-side photography. "What happened to the days when people went to a restaurant and just had a good time?" bemoaned Chef César Ramirez to New York Magazine's Grub Street

Some restaurants, like Momofuku Ko, have banned photos entirely, reported one 2013 New York Times article. Jiro Ono's sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro explicitly mentions on their website that photos are unwelcome: "The only sure way of enjoying Jiro's sushi is to concentrate on dining. When you leave, we would be pleased to take a commemorative photograph for you at the doorway if you wish." 

Sometimes frowned upon, sometimes encouraged — how do you know what is appropriate, and when?

Capture with caution

New York's Empellón Cocina encourages eager guests to upload photos onto social media channels; "It's almost like they are becoming a brand ambassador on behalf of the restaurant," co-owner David Rodolitz explained to The Wall Street Journal. For those itching to take photos in classy establishments, the Washington City Paper advises that aspiring food photographers turn off camera flashes and be aware of other diners.

"If it's not distracting other restaurant patrons and you can do it discretely, I would say it's okay," The Etiquette School of New York's Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick instructed Insider. PopPhoto suggests turning down the brightness setting on your phone, silencing the shutter sound, and waiting until you're out of the restaurant to share only your best pictures. Just be sure you take those photos quickly. You want to get to the most important part of your dining experience — savoring your artfully-prepared meal.