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It’s not unusual for restaurants and other brands to host free meals for bloggers and other “influencers” with the hope that they will tweet and Instagram the evening away. But the quid pro quo is even more explicit with a “pop-up social media restaurant” called Top Nosh created by local event and design company, Taylor and Hov. The only currency for entry is Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts promoting the dinner and its vendors. 

For their first event last spring, founders Sugar Taylor and Narine Hovnanian invited 200 “social media influencers” to a lavish multi-course dinner at the Long View Gallery. The main guest list criteria, with a few exceptions, was that attendees have at least 5,000 followers on Twitter or Instagram. A Downton Abbey-themed dinner is in the works for this month.

Taylor explains that when people make a reservation, the final step is to follow three companies involved in the pop-up on social media. “Once the event comes, you’re already following us, so we just ask that you mention us as you go through the evening,” Taylor says. When people walk in, they’re handed a menu with hashtags to use. “And then you just find things that are beautiful and you post them.”

While the initial pop-ups have been invite-only, Taylor and Hovnanian are looking into opening them up to the public in the future. Non-“influencer” attendees, however, will likely have to buy tickets, while “influencers” are invited for free. But even someone with a measly 136 Twitter followers will potentially be able flex some social media muscle:

“Maybe we’ll say you’ll get a free drink ticket for three posts,” Taylor says.

Everything about the dinners is built for the optimal Instagram post. At the Downton Abbey dinner, there will be an “Instagram styling station” with a vintage vanity holding an antique brush, pearls, ribbon, and samples of the food. “You can style it and take a photo of it and win a prize for the best Instagram photo,” Taylor says. “You may win a night at the Kimpton or something like that. And it’s a way to make sure all the pictures look fantastic on social media.”

Some of the dinners feature local catering companies, while others will highlight chefs. Taylor and Hov plan to host at least two a year.

Beyond the pop-ups, Taylor and Hov focuses on weddings as well as other social and corporate events. The pop-ups are unabashedly self-promotional, of course, and were created out of the company’s desire to build its own social media standing. “Last year, I got five or six clients just off of Instagram, and I didn’t even have a lot of followers,” Taylor explains. After spit-balling some ideas, Hovnanian suggested a pop-up restaurant where people would “pay” with social media.

So far, Taylor says they haven’t necessarily enforced that people are posting on social media to attend. But, she says, they don’t really need to. At the first pop-up, 95 percent of people took to Twitter and Facebook anyway.

“People naturally post everything they’re doing,” she says.

Photo courtesy Taylor and Hov