How to promote your restaurant on Instagram: Practical tips and ideas for restaurant social media marketing
Long gone are the days when word of mouth was the most powerful marketing tool for a restaurant. Today, people don’t just want to hear about the place they’re considering going to. They also want to see it, experience it, and enjoy it long before they actually show up and try the food.
Social media platforms give customers a chance at virtually test driving restaurants before they commit to it physically — via posts, tags, Stories, and mentions.
In this article, we share our collection of the best restaurant digital marketing practices, actionable tips, and unique ideas that can elevate your social media marketing game and boost your restaurant business — either it’s a restaurant, a cafe, a pizzeria, or a bar — online and offline!
Keep your eyes peeled for templates, post prompts, and other unconventional tricks that will grow your following base fast.
Why should you consider social media marketing for restaurants?
Running a social media account for your restaurant can sometimes be equally as difficult as running the restaurant in question itself. However, if improved brand awareness, better customer loyalty, and more sales are among your marketing goals, you should consider tripling your efforts on social media.
Here are some pretty convincing benefits of social media marketing for restaurants:
- It helps raise brand awareness for your restaurant. There are currently over 3 billion people using social media, and the number continues to grow. When handled correctly, social media presence can help you increase your reach and introduce your restaurant to a huge number of people.
- It helps humanize your brand. Users log into their social media accounts to socialize with their friends, relatives, and sometimes strangers on the internet. By setting up a profile on a social media platform, you immediately turn your restaurant into a collective of people managing it instead of a faceless business. You can show your personality, express your vibe, and better develop your brand.
- It helps establish robust relationships with your target audience. You can converse with your clients in real-time, collect their feedback, and act on it. As a result, you can manage relationships with your customers better.
- It helps increase your reach.
Today, successful businesses tend to choose a multichannel approach to marketing, and run accounts on as many social media platforms as possible. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Pinterest are all great channels for restaurant digital marketing.
However, granted the nature of Instagram as a platform, if you were to focus on just one social media, we’d recommend sticking to Instagram. This is an especially valuable piece of advice if your primary target audience is Millennials and Gen Z. At the end of the day, it’s best to become a master of one trade before becoming a master of all 🙂
Below, we’ve put together a collection of ready-to-use, practical restaurant social media tips and ideas that will elevate your restaurant Instagram profile and help you make more sales!
8 social media marketing ideas, tips and tricks for your restaurant business
If you want your restaurant’s social media marketing to be truly successful, you need to develop a robust marketing strategy, focus on ideas, and streamline the rest. VistaCreate offers a great selection of ready-made design solutions for restaurants, cafes, or bars that will make your journey significantly easier — check it out!
Make sure your social media profile is informative and carries value for your audience
According to stats, the majority of Millenials and Gen Z use social media, Instagram in particular, to find and select restaurants, bars, and cafes to visit. That’s why you need to make sure that your social media accounts are all set and ready to attract as many new customers as possible. They must be easy to find online, reflective of your brand and its vibes, and appealing to your target audience. Otherwise, you risk losing a lot of potential sales opportunities.
The first step to take when setting up a social media account for your restaurant is to fill out all important information, optimize your profile for search engines, and make sure your page is in line with your brand.
Here’s a little checklist of all the things you should do at the beginning of your restaurant’s social media marketing journey:
- Choose an easy-to-remember Instagram handle; it shouldn’t be too long, and it should be associated with your business name.
- Specify the type of business you run — is it a bar? Is it a restaurant? Is it a cafe? Is it a bistro?
- Include your location. If you run a chain restaurant, it’s best to have a separate page for every city; that way people don’t confuse locations and get frustrated that they’ve been checking out a restaurant miles away from them this whole time.
- Include your working hours. When do you open your doors? Do you have longer working hours on weekends?
- Include a link to your website.
- Include your unique selling point in the description — Is there a garden you’re proud of? Do you host regular events like quiz nights and live music events? Is there a banging offer that would lure in customers?
- If you work with any delivery services such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Bolt Food, Postmate etc, make use of the Make an Order button.
- Add hashtags to your bio to describe your restaurant’s vibe, and make it easier for people to make a quick judgment on whether or not you’re their best choice (#asian, #italian, #lively, #cocktails, #fastfood, #vegan)
Other ways you could make your restaurant’s social media profile more valuable for followers and digital bypassers is by creating highlights with important information; such as how to find your restaurant, or you could even post your menu.
To give your audience a better understanding of where your restaurant is located, you can mark the exact location on a map, record and post a video of your surroundings, or create a timelapse of getting from the nearest landmark to your location.
As for the menu, there are several approaches, too. If you’re building a Facebook page, the platform allows you to upload the menu directly to your account, post it as a PDF, or invite people to visit your website with the published menu.
If you’re working with Instagram, you can either publish your menu as a post, as a Story, create a series of stories with different dishes and their descriptions, or a quick overview of the menu paired with a Story Sticker link to the full menu.
Don’t forget to ensure your menu is branded, consistent with your brand, and looks good. The best solution for your restaurant business is to edit one of many VistaCreate’s menu templates. Check them out!
VistaCreate Pro Tip: If you choose to share some mouth-watering pics of your dish of the day, or the newest addition to the menu on your social media feed, make sure you choose the right time to publish. The best time for a restaurant to post is when people are hungry and scrolling through their social media: 9AM, between noon and 1PM and 8PM.
Gamify your social media content and interact with your audience
Speaking of the menu… You can easily kill not two, but four birds with one stone — better understand your audience, deepen the bond with them, receive a lot of user-generated content, and increase your social media presence — by running contests on your social media accounts.
Some of the best social media contest ideas for restaurant marketing include:
- “Share a photo with your favorite dish from our restaurant” — Can help you identify client favorites and brand them as such in your future marketing communications.
- “Share your best memory from our restaurant” — Can help you get a lot of user-generated content to publish on your page.
- “Share your favorite recipe of a dish that could be added to our menu” — Can give you ideas regarding new positions on the menu.
Don’t forget, every content should have a prize — you should think about a viable incentive, a prize that would encourage your restaurant customers to participate in these activities. Some of the most common prizes include coupons, free items off the menu, discounts, etc.
Alternatively, you can gamify your social media content. One way to do this is by creating low-effort, easy-to-participate games that would urge followers to interact with your posts, e.g.:
- Mazes (“Help our chef find the best new dish for the Summer special menu”, “Help our guests book a table”)
- Spot the difference (Post two side-by-side pictures of the same dishes but alter some details, e.g. remove some ingredients, change the background color, change the pattern of the plate, etc.)
- Find the hidden emoji/dish/etc (Publish a photo of your restaurant and digitally — or physically for all it matters — “hide” an object in it)
- Play guess (Ask your followers to guess the special ingredient one of your dishes contains)
Finally, you can leverage Instagram Stories to create fun, interactive content for your restaurant’s social media marketing:
- Create an Instagram quiz and challenge your followers’ knowledge of some restaurant- or сuisine-specific facts (Questions could include “When was our restaurant founded?”, “What is the most popular item on our menu?”, “What is the most popular spice in X cuisine?” etc.)
- Post This or That Instagram Story Polls to find out more about your followers’ preferences, e.g. “Choose your ideal breakfast combo”, “Choose your favorite sandwich”, “Choose your perfect Sunday brunch drink” etc.
It’s important to keep all your Instagram Stories design-consistent and in line with your branding. You can do this with the help of VistaCreate’s Brand Kit feature.
Keep up with the latest internet trends
If increasing brand awareness is on the list of your restaurant’s social media marketing goals, you want to focus on producing content that can potentially blow up on social media.
The easiest way to craft posts that will get plenty of likes, shares, and comments is to talk about trending topics.
Make sure you have a designated Internet connoisseur that watches over emerging memes, trends, and personas, so that you have an upper hand in your industry when it comes to publishing a trendy post.
There are lots of different types of trends that you can incorporate into your restaurant’s social media marketing strategy:
- Emerging memes — Is there a particularly popular meme format that you could adjust to your niche and use in your communications?
- Upcoming events — Is there an event that your target audience would be interested in and cares about? Tie it in with your restaurant! E.g. Host your special menu Oscars, compare Met Gala outfits to your dishes, etc.
- Design trends — Is there a specific design that would appeal to your target audience?
- Topics that have caused a lot of public resonance — Has anything that aligns with your restaurant’s mission and values happened recently? Talk about it and state your position.
Remember, if you’re running a local business, it’s less about coming up with an idea that would excite the global community, and more about creating something that the locals would like:
- Cocktails on your menu as the neighborhoods of your city
- Different types of people visiting your restaurant (starter packs)
- Dress code variations at your restaurant
- Inside jokes for your restaurant community
Here’s an example of Vognyk Bar’s (Kyiv, Ukraine) relatively old post that ties in the back-then-trendy Squid Game and the bar itself in a collection of memes. P.S. The Dalgona cookie is shaped as the bar’s logo, a butterfly:
Another beautiful example of meme usage in a restaurant’s social media strategy is Zebrano (London, The UK). They lightly ridicule the public’s love for Porn Star martinis (and also announce a special offer on the client-favorite cocktail):
Find reasons to post more often, but make them good
If you want your restaurant’s social media marketing to be fruitful, you need to make sure you develop a regular posting schedule and stick to it instead of posting once in a blue moon and calling it a day.
Nonetheless, you must remember to not prioritize quantity over quality. It’s essential to keep your posts varied, relevant, and interesting. If you simply unload a pile of pictures of your best-selling dishes, you’re unlikely to get a lot of engagement from those posts. However, if you alternate between posting behind the scenes, brand-new items on the menu, photos of restaurant guests, breakfast and dinner combos, you can easily keep your followers engaged and hungry for more.
If there’s not much happening at your restaurant on a given day, you can still leverage one of the many food-related holidays that take place throughout the year and dedicate a post to the occasion.
- Design and publish an infographic dedicated to one of your apricot desserts on National Apricot Day. (There are plenty of holidays dedicated to all kinds of fruits, vegetables, foods, and drinks — you can choose whatever works for you!)
- Post about traditional foods for different holidays and how your restaurant uses those ingredients.
- Congratulate your followers with various holidays.
The UK branch of Din Tai Fung went all out on Lunar New Year. To congratulate their followers with the upcoming holiday, the restaurant leveraged the benefits of AR in restaurant marketing and announced the launch of their very first AR Instagram filter:
If you don’t have a good occasion to dedicate a social media post to… Don’t worry! On those days when you can’t create time-sensitive content, you can always rely on evergreen content. Educate your restaurant clients on different niche-specific topics.
- If you’re a healthy restaurant, post about the benefits of a healthy diet — a simple infographic covering the impact eating and drinking well has on your body should do just fine!
- If you’re an Italian restaurant, create a post discussing all the different pasta shapes.
- If you’re a vegetarian establishment, discuss how one can replace meat with plant-based alternatives.
Just keep in mind that you need to match your educational posts with your promotional posts. Instead of borrowing information from somewhere else, create posts from scratch and design them in your signature restaurant style. VistaCreate can help you with that! Check out our post templates — you can publish your creations directly to Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Or just post a video of how your best-selling cocktails get shaken and stirred — video content is the star of restaurant social media marketing! Learn more about Reels here.
Put a face to a name; show off your employees and the behind the scenes of your restaurant
Restaurants as a business category have a much higher chance of standing out from the competition than products and services; a restaurant is, in a way, a combination of service and numerous products. You can make your restaurant memorable by putting together an unconventional menu, creating numerous photo zones for your clients, offering excellent service or unusual experiences.
However, to make your restaurant really stand out, and to turn your one-time customers into brand ambassadors, you need to differentiate your restaurant from competitors in the digital realm, too.
It’s important to humanize your establishment, put a face to the name, and, therefore, establish and maintain a bond with your target audience online.
There are a couple of activities you can add to your restaurant social media marketing strategy to make it possible:
- Introduce your employees, share some interesting facts about their career.
- Start a rubric where all your employees share their tips, favorite culinary books, or films.
- Share pictures and videos from employee events.
- Host a Q&A session with the owner of the restaurant, either in the Instagram Stories format, or live.
Alternatively, you can offer your audience a look behind the scenes of your restaurant — show how everything works, give kudos to your employees and suppliers, share some anecdotes from your routine, etc.
Collaborate with local social media influencers
One of the best ways to grow your social media presence quickly is by having someone who’s already a well-established influencer introduce your page to their followers.
Look for local influencers — lifestyle bloggers, foodies, etc., — invite them to come to your restaurant, and urge them to cover their visit on their social media page.
You can either:
- Get an influencer to tag your restaurant’s page in their post or Story, or
- Give an influencer a discount at your restaurant for their followers in exchange for a promotion, or
- Invite an influencer to see the backstage of your restaurant and document their adventure on social media.
If you’re not sure about collabing with a real-world influencer, there are cool alternatives you can try out instead. Read our article about virtual influencers here!
Make use of User-Generated Content (UGC)
If you ever feel like you’re running out of content to post, don’t hesitate to tap into the waters of User-Generated Content! Once your social media page gets at least a tiny bit popular, tags will start rolling in — Millennials and Gen Z are obsessed with showing what they eat and where they hang out.
Keep a close eye on all the new publications under your location with your hashtag and your tag. Make sure to repost all the Stories that mention you, and your guests’ pictures. Don’t forget to tag them, too. This will be a good incentive for social media users to spread the word about your restaurant and tag you in their publications.
Special bonus points go to those restaurants that understand the importance of having an instagrammable spot at their establishment, and leverage the benefits that these designated photo-zone brings.
For instance, Zebrano is famous for its #zebranowings, and they repost every photo with this hashtag. At the same time, Sketch the restaurant knows how much their guests love the futuristic-looking bathroom, and regularly share their clients’ trendy toilet selfies.
As a thank you for all the photos your customers share with you, you can… Do the same for them! Hire a photographer and take nice, professional photos of your visitors. Then, publish them on your profile — it’s likely that people will repost the post to their pages, send it to their group chats, and maybe even tag their friends.
Don’t forget to brand your photos for an extra layer of brand awareness.
Monitor reviews, and establish a conversation with your past and future customers
And while you’re monitoring the web, searching for user-generated content, make sure to also pay attention to client reviews of your business.
Some tools that can automate the process and notify you whenever a new mention of your business appears on the internet include:
- Google Alerts
It’s important to react to them promptly and maintain an ongoing conversation with your customers. If the review is good, you can use it in your marketing communications in the future, e.g. create a “People talk about us” highlight.
If the review is bad… You get a chance at solving the problem diplomatically, improving your business, and — as weird as it sounds — using the review in future communications, too.
You can use the negative comment to point out your continuous progress, the raw nature of your brand, and the level of trust there is between you and your audience. Be careful, though! Don’t do anything you aren’t sure you can handle.
Restaurant marketing online is a vast field of opportunities — make sure you try out plenty of different approaches, strategies, and ideas to find the one that works best for your restaurant!