We’ve gotten a little spoiled in 2018. We don’t just want to read a menu description of a dish anymore—we need to know exactly what it will look like. That’s in part thanks to apps like Waitr, where users can scroll through hundreds of well-lit, professionally shot images of restaurant items. For an app that’s less than five years old, you may wonder: Where did these thousands of photos come from?
While Waitr has dozens of photographers now, the app started with just one: Daniel Edwards.
Edwards is the photo operations manager at Waitr. When he’s not at Waitr’s headquarters in Lake Charles, he’s traveling to Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans for photo shoots at restaurants.
Monday through Friday, Waitr photographers snap pictures of restaurants’ menu items one by one. Photo shoots can last up to four hours per restaurant. The longer the menu, the longer the photo session.
“Where some larger companies may have teams of people who shoot the food in a studio, we have to be the food stylist, the photographer and the prop stylist all in one, and shoot it right there in the restaurant,” Edwards says.
Most days, the photographer will arrive at the restaurant in the morning or after lunch hour. While they set up the lighting, camera, laptop and table, the restaurant team starts cooking and prepping dishes for their close-ups.
As soon as the food arrives, Edwards positions it on the table, labels it with a Post-it note and takes a test shot. Then he removes the Post-it, fires a few frames and moves on to the next dish. He likes to move as quickly as possible to capture each dish at its peak freshness, he says.
After all the photos have been taken, the photographer edits them before they’re shared on the app and with the restaurant. The restaurants are free to post them online and use them for marketing. The service is complimentary for businesses that sign up with the app.
The more images a restaurant has, the more dishes are likely to be purchased through the app.
“People like to see what they’re eating,” Edwards says. “Our job is to show them.”
As Waitr continues to grow, so will its photography demands. Edwards predicts that since the company went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in November, it will be expanding the photo team in the near future.
And for the rest of us, that means more dishes piquing our palates.
This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.
Click here to see more stories from our Order In cover story on the Baton Rouge takeout and delivery scene.