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This cafe-owner designed her restaurant to attract Instagram users — and it's working

Key Points
  • Maree Suteja features unique artwork and picture-perfect food at her cafe in Bali, hoping customers would post their every move on Instagram while dining there.
  • But, despite her admiration for Instagram's impact on her restaurant, she said it was "a waste of time" on a personal level.
Maree Suteja, owner of Crate Cafe in Bali, designed her restaurant for social media users.
Benaz Shaikhani for Crate

Cafe-owner Maree Suteja, who is in her 50's, may well be spending as much time on Instagram as her two social-media obsessed children who are in their 20's.

For Suteja, Instagram — the Faceboook-owned social media app — is really about the bottom line.

The former school teacher moved from Australia to Bali, Indonesia where she opened Crate Cafe — known as an "Instagrammers paradise" to tourists, expats and locals.

Suteja designed Crate to attract social media users. The bistro has a minimalist, warehouse-inspired ambiance with bright, natural sunlight streaming into the restaurant. There are displays of unique artwork all around and its dishes are presented in a picture-perfect form.

"Anyone can do a bacon and eggs," she said. "But how do you make it so that any photo you look at, you know it's a Crate bacon and egg?"

She attributes the majority of her business to customers discovering her restaurant on Instagram.

The restaurant's Instagram account has amassed more than 47,000 followers and features a combination of food and people posing before they tuck into their meals.

"Instagram goes hand-in-hand with word-of-mouth," she said. "You see something on Instagram, you're going to send it someone or tag a friend. It's that thing about tagging people and that gets the word out."

Crate Cafe in Bali, Indonesia
Benaz Shaikhani for Crate

Crate's main menu offering is breakfast, but it also offers lunch items too. Most mornings, a line forms as people wait to order their food. It is a rare sight in Canggu, the area of Bali where the restaurant is located.

Suteja doesn't use other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter to promote her restaurant.

"Through Instagram, people talk. So you've got word of mouth through Instagram, emails and your website," she said. "Do you really need anything else?"

Launched in 2010, Instagram now boasts more than one billion monthly active users and 500 million daily story active users, the company says.

The social media platform recently rolled out a new feature, Checkout, which allows users to buy products without leaving the app. Checkout is being tested in the U.S. now with brands including retailers such as Adidas, H&M and Warby Parker.

Suteja is constantly trying to reinvent the experience of visiting Crate. Sometimes she brings in a DJ on the weekends, or offers new "Insta-worthy" menu items.

But, despite her admiration for Instagram's impact on her restaurant, she said it was "a waste of time" on a personal level.

"I don't have time to go there on my personal Instagram and I don't have time to say, 'hey, I just had a cup of coffee.' But as a business owner, I think it is imperative," Suteja said.