"A lot of people don't know what the food is going to be like and therefore they just order the usual fish and chips. But when they see it on our Twitter or Facebook page, it shows the dish in the best light."

Quick snaps of plates of food have been circling Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for quite some time now. And for pubs, getting the right picture can attract customers just as easily as a bad one can keep them away. But exactly how important are good photos for your digital presence?

One pub that posts a good deal of food photos on social media is The Royal Ship Hotel in the market town Dolgellau in Gwynedd, north-west Wales. Duty manager Hannah Roberts explains food pictures work really well for them.

"We were taken over by Robinsons in March 2013, which is when we started making a proper effort online," she explains.

"We started out with Facebook, and Twitter followed about 18 months ago. I find it easier to post food pictures on Twitter because you can just do it quickly and put a couple of words along with it. On Facebook, people tend to get annoyed if you post more than once a day."

Hannah says around four or five customers a week come in and try a dish they've seen on the social media pages.

She says: "A lot of people don't know what the food is going to be like and therefore they just order the usual fish and chips. But when they see it on our Twitter or Facebook page, it shows the dish in the best light."

Smart pictures

The best way to capture the meal is to take lots of photos on a smartphone and choose the best one from there, says Hannah.

"I've got my smartphone in my pocket all the way through service so if I see something good, I'll take a photo and upload it the next day, or straight away depending on how busy we are. Usually I take a photo of one dish at a time and upload it."

She says it's easier when one person is in charge of taking photos and uploading to social media and around 95 per cent of the time she takes the photos. "If I'm not here, another duty manager takes them."

Despite not getting a lot of comments on the food, they get a lot of likes, retweets and favourites, which is important to the pub to make sure they are noticed online.

St Mary's Inn in Northumberland is equally keen on promoting food on social media and makes taking good photos into a bit of a competition between the staff. General manager Victor Castro says: "We share the photo responsibilities and if someone takes a really good picture that gets a lot of attention, we kind of challenge ourselves to get more likes than the post before.

"Food images are always very well received and we always check analytics of the posts to back that up. We also find images of big groups eating work well too, and dogs."

Make some noise

With the pub only open since November last year, Victor explains having an online presence is especially important.

"It's not just to benefit the pub. We're a new business, so we have to try to engage with people on social media by making a bit of noise about ourselves to show what we're doing," Victor explains.

"Since we opened, we've been really active on Twitter and Facebook and in the past few weeks we've started using Instagram and we see our likes increasing every day."

He believes Instagram is very good for photos but says Facebook has the advantage of already having a link with people through a "like".

He adds: "And equally, on Twitter, if someone who has a lot of followers retweets or follows you, it's great. The only thing with Twitter is you have to be aware of what time you are tweeting, because it easily gets lost."

The Red Lion in West Deeping, Lincolnshire, posts food pictures from the pub twice daily and has seen a lot of online engagement from its posts. They occasionally have customers come in and try a dish because they've seen a picture, explains licensee Marie Cook.

She says: "Don't overthink what you want to take and sometimes think outside the box. Do a real close-up until you are almost unsure what it is a picture of — if that makes sense. Don't try to be too professional.

"Customers like to see what the food will look like, a bit like 'try before you buy', but they do like to know it is a picture of your actual dish and not a lookalike from another website," she explains.