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New Pay-by-Photo Restaurant Opens in London

Your pals won’t make fun of you for Instagramming every meal anymore—a new restaurant lets you pay for your noms with the snap of your smartphone.


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Food porn just got serious: it can now act as payment for your dinner, thanks to a new pop-up restaurant in London. Soho’s Picture House is the world’s first pay-by-photo restaurant, where snap-happy eaters can enjoy gratis grub if they Instagram their meal.

Cooked up by frozen food empire Birds Eye as a means of cashing in on the obsession with subjecting our snacks to filter-heavy photoshoots, the eatery will remain in England’s capital for three days this month before heading to two other major UK cities. After conducting a survey, which found that over half of Brits regularly take pictures of their meals, and that 9 percent of the Queen’s humble servants photograph their chow on a daily basis, the corporation decided to try out their new dining range with hashtags as their currency of choice.

“This is a really good idea,” says 24-year-old Rhiannon Atkins. “I’m a keen Instagrammer and will eat and tweet if it’s free! A lot of people pay for their meal and then take photos of it anyway so this is a massive incentive, and I think it could spread like wildfire.”

Given the burgeoning rise of “food-ography,” nearly 40% of those surveyed said they arrange their meals decoratively in order to share the photos online—this idea is pretty smart, particularly as Birds Eye have hired an Instagrammer-extraordinaire to assist with the pictures. In some wise pre-emptive damage control to avoid images of sloppy seconds hitting the Insta-sphere, photographer Marie Marte is on hand to offer diners tutorials in how to place each pea as provocatively as possible across their plates. After some expertly observed snack snapping, customers then upload photos to their social networks with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations, and presto! Dinner’s on the house.

Since its opening, the pop-up has received an “incredibly encouraging” reaction, says Lynn Grant, Birds Eye’s senior brand manager, “and the pay-by-picture concept has proven to be an effective way of engaging consumers.”

“We’re excited to see how the public continues to respond to the activity and, given the success of The Picture House so far, we certainly feel there is scope to expand this venture further in the future.”

The notion of alternative payments has been gathering steam of late, particularly in London, where the first pay-per-minute café was recently launched. The UK arm of a Russian chain where “everything is free, except the time you spend there,” Ziferblat charges customers 3p (5 cents) per minute, with coffee, cookies, and whatever else visitors can find included in that price. The place opened in January to a blaze of oohs and ahhs from the city’s laptop ‘n’ latte crowd, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, money quickly became an issue, with a Kickstarter campaign to save Ziferblat’s (remarkably cut price) bacon formed just two months later. After ironing things out with their landlord, the space for “micro-tenants” was back up and running again in hipster-ville Shoreditch, proving once again that paying for things in a normal fashion is like, so 2013.

And smog capital of the world Beijing is also trying its hand at cash-less, card-less payments, attempting to go environmental with a recycling scheme that lowers your subway fares. Commuters can trade in their empty plastic bottles at ticket machines at stations across the city, receiving around 5 to 15 cents for each one handed in as credit onto their subway cards. This is definitely the smartest of the above, giving train dwellers the opportunity to go green at the same time they knock a little off the price of each ticket. It doesn’t quite have the makings of a snappy social media campaign like the pop-up restaurant, but a chance to do good in exchange for reduced subway fares? Sounds pretty good to me.

It’s hard to see this idea of quirky money-saving campaigns taking off for more expensive products—after all, frozen chicken, coffee and subway tickets all retail at less than $5—but they’re definitely a pretty smart way to create buzz around doing things a little differently. With cash slowly becoming consigned to the currency of yesteryear, perhaps hashtags and coffee meters are the dollars of the future—especially if they mean we get what we’re buying at a snip of the price.

Dinner in exchange for a hashtag? #Totallyin.