Food blogger Thanh Do of I Eat Therefore I Am. Photo: Penny Stephens
You're at a new, hot Mexican cantina but nobody is eating or talking. The chilli tofu tacos are getting cold while guys in skinny jeans and gals in vintage dresses snap their food, then busily tap comments on iPhones. Do you ever wonder where these photos go?
Grill'd burgers knows exactly where. In March last year, it launched a cheeky marketing campaign including an in-store poster that screamed ''NO BLOGGING, NO TWEETING, NO INSTAGRAMMING, NO FACEBOOKING …NO CRAVATS''. As the story broke, the fury on social media was swift and sharp - Grill'd even briefly began to trend on Twitter.
Today, thanks to smart phones and social media, even a humble fast food burger is shared in real-time to be instantly rated, liked, commented on and retweeted by an audience of hundreds, even thousands of voracious followers around the world.
Point of view: Food blogger Thang Ngo from the blog Noodlies. Photo: Joe Wigdahl
In Australia, food fascination reached a new level. On the box, 2013 has been dubbed ''the year of the foodies'' by leading TV blog TV Tonight, and food shows are a key part of every TV network's line-up in 2014. Food magazines take up racks and racks in newsagents, while food-porn pics fill more than 2000 food blogs.
The food community is one of the most active on social media and spreading virally - not just on Facebook and Twitter but also via Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and other new platforms that could be household names by year's end.
''There are 11.6 million active Facebook users in Australia,'' says Maria Grivas, digital director at UM, one of Australia's largest media agencies.
Added bite: The infamous sign at Grill'd.
''That's more than half the Australian population while YouTube, at 10.2 million, is not that far behind.''
With the increasing take-up rate of smart phones, Grivas reckons the growth in real-time food sharing is set to continue. She cites research by strategic media investment agency Magna Global, which predicts 80 per cent of Australians will own a smart phone by the end of 2015, up from 60 per cent in 2012.
If you're looking for a culinary social media adventure, here's a feast of options.
Cook-along: Jackie M. Tang hosts an online cooking show.
With the introduction of Facebook's free brand page, an online presence no longer means expensive website development or having to learn html, CMS and SEO, thus allowing smaller restaurants to compete on the same footing as multinational fast food chains and fine-dining establishments. Because it's easy to use, restaurants can update Facebook pages frequently with food photos, daily specials and competitions. ''Like'' the page and you'll receive these updates. Unlike a rigid website, diners can post comments, photos and videos on the restaurant's page, allowing two-way interaction.
Sunny side up: Nine million Australians check their Facebook page daily, making this the number one social media for just about any topic, including food.
Sunny side down: Your comments aren't anonymous and privacy concerns continue to plague Facebook.
Pretty as a picture: Posts from Gelato Messina regularly attract 1000 likes.
A tweet might only be 140 characters but follow your favourite chef and you get a good insight into what they're like. Some chefs are surprisingly candid, tweeting behind-the-scenes photos from the kitchen and even gripes about difficult diners. Some chefs use Twitter to engage with followers by allowing them to vote for a dish to be the day's special. More often, diners are able to book a table directly via Twitter. Diners who have established a Twitter relationship with a chef or restaurant might benefit from a warm reception on arrival.
Sunny side up: Establish a Twitter relationship with a chef or restaurant and you might get a better table than other diners.
Sunny side down: Sometimes you really don't want to know that much about a chef.
You know you're doing something right when Facebook buys you for $1 billion. Instagram is food porn. Take a picture of the dish in front of you with your smart phone, crop it artistically and choose from a range of filters to suit your mood, then post it to the world. The success of Instagram's filters has forced Twitter and Facebook to introduce their own, and has inspired a host of copycat photo and video apps. Instagram video was introduced this year, spawning another wave of growth. Instagram is cool, casual and uncomplicated - it's the hipsters' social media favourite.
Sunny side up: Quick food porn fix - now also in video.
Sunny side down: Facebook acquisition and privacy concerns with the updated terms of service have reduced some of Instagram's hipster credentials.
It's the world's second-most popular search engine, used by almost half the Australian population. YouTube's long-form video format makes this platform a great ''how-to'' resource. Want to know how to debone fish, make eclairs or whip up Peter Gilmore's Quay snow egg? It's on YouTube. You can also view wine and restaurant reviews or subscribe to an endless number of YouTube food channels - Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain each have a YouTube channel.
Sunny side up: There's a video for just about anything you want to cook or eat.
Sunny side down: Anyone can upload a cooking video so quality is inconsistent. Comment trolls on YouTube rival Twitter.
It's Google's third attempt to topple Facebook and the most successful so far, though the Australian food G+ community is still a relative ghost town. Because it's Google, many analysts are still giving it the benefit of the doubt. Like Facebook, G+ also offers a brand page feature, however ''Hangouts'' is by far its best asset - a nifty and easy-to-use video chat service that can be shared with other G+ members or streamed and posted to YouTube. Barack Obama and Julia Gillard have hosted Hangouts. Australian chef Jackie M runs a ''cook-along'' each month; you buy the ingredients, join the Hangout and follow her live cooking demo.
Sunny side up: With its clean interface, Hangout is an excellent real-time video service.
Sunny side down: Nice features, but this community hall feels a little deserted.
Explosive growth and a hyper-engaged community have propelled this relatively new social media platform to prominence. Pinterest is built around the idea of virtual cork boards where you pin items of interest. You can create different boards for each interest on which you ''pin'' online links, be it recipes from a blog or cooking videos from YouTube. Users are strongly female skewed and the community revolves around common categories of interests including fashion, crafts and food. If you follow someone's Pinterest board you'll get their updates. Most engagement happens via pinning, re-pinning and ''liking''.
Sunny side up: If you're a visual person, this is a great platform to organise online content, especially around fashion, crafts and food.
Sunny side down: There's lots of content on the screen; until you're used to it, the layout is overwhelming.
Since its launch in January, Twitter's micro-video sharing app has amassed an impressive 40 million users. Not surprisingly, celebrity chefs have taken to the micro-video format, sharing with fans six-second vignettes of themselves in the kitchen - you can catch a glimpse of Curtis Stone grilling chicken, Jamie Oliver making a cocktail, or US TV personality Andrew Zimmern eating duck embryo in South-East Asia.
Sunny side up: Impressive growth, backed by Twitter.
Sunny side down: Still new, could do with more food content.
Dubbed the ''Instagram of video'', this LA-based start-up boasts 40 million users worldwide, and celebrity investors including Shakira, Jay-Z and Will Smith. Shoot a 30-second video with your smart phone, select a music track and video filter, then upload it to the world. Chefs and restaurants in the US are starting to embrace Viddy to give diners a quick snapshot of their restaurants. Viddy's phenomenal growth has slowed since the introduction of Vine and Instagram video.
Sunny side up: Video is a great way to capture a dish or a restaurant's atmosphere.
Sunny side down: Being squeezed by two social media giants, Twitter's Vine and Instagram video.
Follow the foodie
American Chef John's channel is one of the most popular on YouTube with over 300,000 subscribers and a staggering 86 million views. Watch and learn from 800 video recipes including garlic hot wings, Swedish meatballs and duck adobo sauce. See youtube.com/foodwishes
He's behind one of Melbourne's most popular food blogs, I Eat Therefore I Am. Do is also an Instagram rising star with more than 9000 followers. From a macaron tower to a home-made Christmas dinner, every post is food porn, ''liked'' by hundreds. See instagram.com/ieatblog
Chef Jackie M serves up delicious Malaysian food at markets around Sydney and from her headquarters in Paddington. To learn how to cook authentic Malaysian food, circle her on Google+ and join her free monthly "cook-along" hangouts. See google.com/+JackieM
One of the best uses of a Facebook fan page Gelato Messina posts daily irresistible photos of featured flavours, giving ''likers'' a different reason to visit each day. Popular posts attract more than 1000 likes and 100 comments. See facebook.com/gelatomessina
This Pinterest board has more than 110,000 followers and is filled with pictures and recipes of amazing desserts. It's run by three American bloggers, Shelley, Missy and Alison, founders of How Does She blog. See pinterest.com/howdoesshe/dessert-recipes
More than 34,000 people follow this San Diego-based Tribeca Film Festival winner. Mashable.com nominated him as one of the top 10 people to follow on Vine for creatively using food to tell a story with his "how to play with your food" Vines. See vine.co/v/hm6MZBpY2aO
Chef and owner of Beechworth restaurant Provenance, awarded two hats in The Age Good Food Guide 2014, is a prolific tweeter, sharing his thoughts with followers and diners. See Twitter @theprovenance
For the latest restaurants reviews, food discussion, updates on food events and industry news as well as emerging food trends in Australia and around the world. See Twitter @goodfoodAU