Entrepreneurship: Step Into Our Selfie Booth and Help Us Build Our Brand

Entrepreneurship: Step Into Our Selfie Booth and Help Us Build Our Brand

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And at Doomie’s, a vegan restaurant in Toronto, there is a dedicated selfie room where patrons stand in front of a mirror, snap a photo and post it to social media, often with a caption like “just emerged from my food coma.”

“When we were planning the restaurant, we wanted clever ways to promote it and differentiate it, and the younger demographic always wants something Instagram-able,” said one of Doomie’s owners, Hellenic Vincent De Paul.

The restaurant had an unused basement room, so Mr. De Paul painted the floor white and had the walls papered in cartoons by an artist known as Vegan Sidekick. Now, at least half the restaurant’s first-timers under the age of 35 visit the selfie room, Mr. De Paul said. On evenings when there is a wait for a table, patrons sometimes while away the time posing and posting.

The novelty has prompted a lot of publicity, including by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The room definitely helps our business,” Mr. De Paul said. “When we launched, we were covered by CBC and other news outlets just for the selfie room, and it’s a talking point on social media. A lot of people are like, ‘Let’s go to the vegan restaurant with the selfie room.’ ”

While places like Doomie’s in Toronto are setting aside designated areas for people to take pictures with their own phones, other businesses are installing booths designed to take superior selfies. Devotees know that pictures taken in specially lit booths come out far better than a cellphone snapshot.

Alex Klatskin and Tracy Deorio at a Tracy Anderson booth. Such selfie spaces are becoming popular at other businesses, like restaurants and nail salons.

Credit
Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times

Here is a sure sign that the selfie booth is officially ready for its close-up: The Tracy Anderson Method, a fitness chain with a high-end cult following — Lena Dunham is an acolyte, and Gwyneth Paltrow is a partner — installed just such a nook in its new 6,000-square-foot studio on East 59th Street in Manhattan. (So much for never letting them see you sweat.)

Morgen Schick, a Ford model turned beauty and anti-aging guru, sidled into the bright white photo booth on a recent morning and pondered the tools she could use to embellish her selfie: props in the booth include tiny flags festooned with hearts and a pair of weights — and there are four photographic filters, all designed to flatter like mad.

“That’s not bad,” said Ms. Schick, 52, examining herself on the screen before clicking. “There isn’t a filter to make me look 25, but that’s O.K. We’re embracing the now.”

She had taken her first Tracy Anderson post-workout all-aglow selfie the previous day and here she was back for an encore — even though it meant she would be late for her catapult cardio class.

“I don’t know if you’ve taken a class here, but you leave everything on the bouncy floor,” she said. “Tracy meets you where you are, and that’s awesome. I’m a 5-foot-10-inch size-10 woman who’s in menopause. That’s what I love about the photo booth — it meets you where you are, too.”

When Paintbox, a studio specializing in “nail art,” opened in Soho three years ago, a photo box with a manicure-cam and changeable backgrounds was as critical to the success of the operation as emery boards and orange sticks. Clients are presented with a colorful keepsake of their manicure, and, should they choose to post it online — well, they could just help Paintbox expand its business through viral marketing.

“We have a lot of people from out of town, and the photo is like a souvenir of their visit that they can share with their friends,” said Eleanor Langston, founder and chief executive of Paintbox.

Brides, she said, come in with their wedding attendants for manicures and take photos of their freshly burnished nails, one hand piled on top of another.

“It’s really cute,” Ms. Langston said. “The girls get very excited about doing the picture — it’s our gift to them.” (When shared on social media, of course, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.)

The photo booths at Warby Parker, which are installed in nine of the company’s 50 stores, serve two purposes: to help customers get feedback from friends and families about the frames they are considering, and — in an experience not commonly associated with optical shops — to give them a good time.

Morgen Schick, a Ford model turned beauty and anti-aging guru, in a booth. “There isn’t a filter to make me look 25, but that’s O.K.,” she said. “We’re embracing the now.”

Credit
Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times

The chain’s newest store, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, encourages customers to take 15-second videos in front of a green screen with 12 different backdrops. In the Miami store, you can lounge on a plastic raft — presumably wearing shades — while a camera on the ceiling snaps your picture.

“Glasses are one of the only things people wear on their face, and they want to make sure they look good in them, and they want to get feedback from family and friends,” said Dave Gilboa, one of the company’s founders and a co-chief executive. “We thought putting photo booths in the stores where we have room would be a fun way to make that process easier.”

Would-be purchasers of face furniture can take photos of themselves trying on multiple frames; the stores will email or tweet them the images. Customers are also provided with two sets of photo strips.

“Consumers have more choices than ever about where to purchase products, so we try to be thoughtful about the design of our stores and to have an unexpected element that creates a nice diversion,” Mr. Gilboa said. “These booths do take up space. We dedicated a pretty significant piece of the store on Melrose to the green-screen concept. But we’re always thinking about creating new experiences, even if it means not maximizing our selling space.”

At the new Tracy Anderson Method — so far the only one with a selfie booth — people in classes like catapult cardio and “attain definition” have lined up to snap selfies and post them on Instagram. Should they choose, they may tag the photo with the fitness chain’s hashtag: #tamily.

The idea for an on-site photo booth came after there was such an offering at an employee holiday party two years ago. “We had so much fun with it, and I couldn’t believe how good the pictures were,” said Maria Baum, the chief executive of Tracy Anderson Method and a partner in the business. “It made me think we should have this for our clients, too.”

In her company’s notoriously — and proudly — strenuous classes, “people feel so good and happy after a workout,” Ms. Baum said. “They’re proud of their results. It’s, ‘I did this today, and yay me!’ and they like to take a selfie to mark that moment in time and post it on Instagram.”

Social media, Ms. Baum said, “has become increasingly important to our business. We have six studios, but we want to reach everyone in the world.”

At SoulCycle — a chain of indoor cycling classes, pictures are also a similarly important way to market and inspire, but SoulCycle keeps them strictly old-school and local. Bulletin boards at every studio display snapshots of riders taken with Polaroid cameras that are kept handy at the front desk.

“It started as a community builder,” said Gabby Cohen, SoulCycle’s senior vice president for brand strategy and public relations. “s are really important to us. They’re part of our cultural currency. You feel connected to something when you’re part of something visually.”

Some clients use those Polaroids to take selfies. And when the photo pops out, they take a cellphone shot of it and post it to social media, Ms. Cohen said. “There’s something very retro fabulous about that.”

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