Dear restaurants: Stop using stock photography of somebody else’s restaurant on your websites and social media. It’s not cool. It might look pretty, but customers don’t like being duped.
“Oh, wow, that looks glamorous.” I thought a few weeks back as I scrolled through the website of Baran, a new Persian restaurant in Anaheim. The more I scrolled and clicked around, the more excited I got. The food looked incredibly unique for a Middle Eastern restaurant, and the glamorous ambience really stood apart from anything else in the area. What a surprising addition to the restaurant scene, I thought.
I immediately jumped into the car and drove 45 minutes in traffic to eat there for lunch. But when the map in my car told me I’d arrived, I was confused. I circled through the parking lot of a strip mall, searching for the restaurant advertised on its website, but I couldn’t find anything remotely similar to the architecture in the photos. Finally I spotted the restaurant’s sign. And I knew something was off.
I parked and went inside. I was at the right address, the right restaurant, but I’d been duped by stock photography of somebody else’s restaurant somewhere else. The real Baran wasn’t ugly. But there was absolutely no resemblance whatsoever.
“Oh, we haven’t had time to worry about the website,” the owner told me, smiling. Yet, when I sat down to order, the QR code menu directed me to that very same website to view my options. The food was OK, same as every other Persian restaurant, no different, but obviously it looked nothing like the beautiful food in the photos. I felt foolish and left incredibly dissatisfied.
A few weeks later, I was scrolling through Instagram and spotted a post from Nardò, a new Italian restaurant in Huntington Beach. “That picture looks familiar,” I thought. “Wait a minute, is that …” Sure enough, it was the same stock photo that Baran had used.
Hilariously, a few days after that, I spotted that same photo on a retail website selling housewares. What the heck is going on?
That particular photo, I discovered, is actually a free image from the stock photo service Unsplash. It’s by a photographer named Jay Wennington in Sydney, Australia, and it’s been downloaded more than 400,000 times.
Restaurants, your ambience and your food are your product. How could you ever want to promote someone else’s product that you can’t possibly deliver? Is that really how you want to introduce yourself? Stop and think it through.
No more bait and switch. Please.