Orange County’s Instagram Food Culture Is Eating Itself Alive

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Lately Orange County has become something of an internet food phenomenon unto itself. As the home of countless well-lit, over-saturated fast casual restaurants serving up big plates of stripe-sauced food, the county to the south has grown into a powerhouse on social media. Friends and fans share photos and videos of overclocked food endlessly on their mobile devices, while smart companies like Foodbeast (based in Orange County) rake in the likes and pageviews as a result. Except lately, Orange County’s own Instagram bait culture has been eating itself alive.

As Foodbeast notes in a well-researched new piece out today, so-called culinary piracy is becoming a larger and larger phenomenon in greater Southern California. Take for example The Loop, a churro company that makes oval-shaped churros in a variety of flavors. The place has a well-defined aesthetic (the look of the wrappers, the shape of the churro themselves, the font they use for their logo, and on and on) but has been beset by other companies eager to trade on The Loop’s success (which amounts to nearly 150,000 Instagram followers).

Others like The Low-Key Poke Joint (which has locations in Garden Grove, Loma Linda, and Riverside) are battling it out with longtime Smorgasburg vendor Shrimp Daddy to see who can make the most colorful dish fit inside a hollowed-out pineapple. Orange County also has restaurants pulling looks from Dominique Ansel, while more locally there’s a Downtown battle with Little Damage over who was the first or best or most popular or something to put charcoal and soft serve ice cream together. It all matters, because likes and pageviews and social media relevance matters in today’s restaurant world.

Of course, that’s not to say greater Los Angeles is the only place to find food piracy. The Loop is also getting hijacked by a company out of Kuwait, while earlier this year a restaurant group out of Australia took a lot of liberties with the look, feel, and flavor of Howlin’ Ray’s.

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