#Viral Food Trends

July 2017

First there was the cronut. Then there was the rainbow bagel, followed by the ramen burger. Most recently, we have Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino and black “goth” ice cream cones. These food items achieved viral status with help from Instagram—and there’s a reason why. They’re unique; they’re fun; and, most importantly, they look amazing.

Beautiful dishes tend to draw a crowd. And it doesn’t always matter what these eye-catching foods taste like. The unicorn food trend, for instance, is based solely on appearance. There is no “unicorn” flavor, but rather an aesthetic made up of swirled pastel colors.

The likes and shares that Instagram food sensations acquire can have big business implications. To take advantage of this free marketing platform and the traffic it drives, some operators are decorating their restaurants with Instagram in mind. They’re including lots of natural lighting and bright backdrops to help menu items pop in photos.

On the other hand, some operators feel that Instagram success is merely superficial. A beautiful photo of a dish doesn’t necessarily imply great taste or quality ingredients. And, let’s face it, there are some delicious menu items that won’t look good in a photo no matter how many filters a consumer applies to them.

You can make the most of Instagram food trends by aiming to create the perfect balance of flavor and visual appeal. If a dish looks beautiful, it might attract a one-time visitor. But if it looks beautiful and tastes delicious, that one-time visitor is more likely to become a repeat customer.

Be sure to keep up with foodservice trends in the Resource Center, and visit the Culinary Center to see our latest menu inspirations.


Schmalbruch, Sarah. Starbucks’ unicorn frappucino embodies everything that’s wrong with the food scene today, Business Insider, April 2017.

Khushbu, Snah. How Unicorn Foods Took Over the Internet, Thrillist, April 2017.

Bonelli, Erica. Is Instagram Hurting Your Favorite Food Business?, Tasting Table, September 2016.

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