The Complete Guide to Restaurant Instagram Marketing 

The influence Instagram has as a marketing and advertising platform is immense. One simple explanation for its massive impact is how much users adore it. It’s estimated that 500 million Instagram users check their accounts daily!

What’s more interesting is that Instagram has become an alternate search vehicle to Google or Bing. A growing trend is to bypass traditional search engines to find a product or brand directly in Instagram’s search bar. 

What that means is that your restaurant Instagram account is just as important as your website. In fact, many viewers consider Instagram to be a more honest representation of a brand than a website. Users can check hashtags, see location tags, and scroll feeds before making the decision to dine at a new place. If you have a strong Instagram presence, don’t be surprised if new guests find your restaurant through the platform without ever even visiting your website!

Times are certainly changing in this respect, and we’re here to help you navigate this shift. Below, we present a comprehensive guide to setting up and managing Instagram marketing for your restaurant. This guide falls into three categories — setting up, content creation, and ads and analytics — to help you organize your time and thoughts. 

Table of Contents

Part 1: Restaurant Instagram Account Setup and Strategies
Part 2: Creating Content for Instagram
Part 3: Restaurant Instagram Ads and Analytics

PART 1: Restaurant Instagram Account Setup and Strategies

In this first section, we’ll go over how to create your restaurant’s Instagram account. But before we get into account setup details, it’s important to consider your expectations and goals for your business.

Have Realistic Expectations

First, we’d like to offer a gentle reminder to be realistic about your restaurant’s success on Instagram. There are tons of Instagram (IG) accounts with 100K+ followers, and we’ll talk about a few of them in the upcoming sections, but it’s good practice to see them as the exception and not the #goal. Your business page might attract far fewer followers or less engagement — and you can still consider it a success.

Behind many of those mega-pages are expensive agencies, a seasoned and savvy content creator, or a blessing from Lady Luck in the form of viral content. Hopefully, knowing this will keep you from comparing your account to others that aren’t true competitors. 

Set Realistic Goals Each Month

A more effective way to gauge success is to set realistic goals and review them every month. As you reach small benchmarks month by month, you will be proud of the impressive results that accumulate.

At the beginning, we recommend putting effort into learning the platform, posting with consistency, finding a natural communication style, and being creative with the content you share with followers. Most of what we just said isn’t exactly measurable — for instance, you can’t quantify creativity — so although setting specific goals is important, it’s not everything. 

Below are examples of realistic goals to set:

Month 1. Set up an Instagram business account, create a hashtag list, follow accounts to build a community, and find or create content with captions. Then post regularly and start reading analytics. When getting started, we recommend posting at least twice a week to your IG account, and posting on Stories as often as you like. 

Month 2. Get 50 customers to follow the account. Start posting Stories and creating Instagram Story Highlights if you haven’t already. 

Month 3. Build a customer profile based on analytics, and start testing out an ad campaign. Get 100 more customers to start following you with an in-shop promotion (e.g., follow for a 10% discount).

Continue setting short-term, attainable goals based on your metrics and the feedback you’re receiving from your community. The most important goal of all: to post great-looking content on a regular basis. Consistency is the key to successful restaurant Instagram marketing. 

Another small reminder: Instagram is a long-term marketing strategy — so have fun! With time, and implementing the tools we review below, your page will get results. 

Sign Up for a Business Account

Now that you’ve set your goals and expectations, go ahead and create an account if you don’t already have one. Be sure you create a business account, not a creator or personal account. With a business account, you’re granted access to a special set of tools designed to increase sales, such as:

  • Detailed insights into your audience demographics, best posting times, and other useful metrics
  • The option to add call-to-action buttons to call, email, or view a landing page (such as a delivery page)
  • The ability to create an Instagram ad campaign

Six Tips for a Perfect Restaurant Instagram Bio

Thanks to a 2020 update, Instagram bios are more engaging than ever. Users can add clickable hashtags, usernames, and websites. 

Viewers see your bio first, making it the most important part of your Instagram account. A well-crafted bio tells them what your restaurant is about and what they can expect as a customer, such as the type of food that’s served, your establishment’s unique qualities, or what specials and promotions you’re offering.

There is a small hitch, however: You must do this in 150 characters or less. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how below. Here are six ways to attract new customers with your Instagram bio.

1. Create a recognizable username. For restaurants, using the name of your physical location as your IG username is best. If you have multiple locations, use the shared name. Avoid catchy phrases or your slogan because customers search using the details they have. 

2. Add a profile image that reflects your restaurant’s branding. Your restaurant logo is likely to be your best choice for a profile picture, as it will appear on all your comments. If your restaurant is known for an exceptional dish, you could incorporate it into your profile picture too. Avoid using scenic pictures of your restaurant or food, as profile images are small, and details will be hard to make out.

Good to Know

On Instagram, your username is a “handle.” It’s preceded by an @ sign.

3. Users like to see emojis — use them! Some people are anti-emoji, but we like them. Some linguists even argue that emojis are a language. They add color and spark curiosity.

The most useful way to use emojis is to list your restaurant’s qualities. Begin each line of the list with the relevant emoji to keep your readers’ attention on your bio longer. 

MenuDrive Tip: Use relevant emojis to add color and spark curiosity. 

4. Add your branded hashtag. Your bio is the perfect place to introduce a brand hashtag. When users click on it, they will be directed to any photos or videos tagged with that hashtag, giving them a chance to view your restaurant through the eyes of guests. 

For an example of a company that reaps the benefits of a branded hashtag, look no further than the Home Shopping Network (@HSN – 257,000 followers). 

📸 Tag us for a chance to be featured: #LoveHSN @hsn
👇 Click to shop! 🛍

Their bio is short and sweet, urging followers to engage with the company using their hashtag #loveHSN. The result is nearly 7,000 posts of happy customers, hosts, and stylish guest presenters featuring products and goods bought through HSN. That’s all free marketing content for the shopping network. 

For more on branded hashtags, scroll down to the section “The Importance of Using Hashtags.” 

5. Drive traffic to a URL. Your bio is the ideal place to generate traffic to your website. Use the Google URL Shortener to create a link. This tool shortens a link and gives a cleaner look to your bio, but the real benefit is how it allows you to track traffic for free. When a visitor clicks a link created by the Google Shortener, it saves the location of the user and the device and browser used. It’s a simple and effective way to gather customer data. 

6. The first line of your bio should be your slogan or a quick description of your restaurant philosophy. What is the first thing you want customers to know about your restaurant? It could be that you have multiple locations, or it could be a description of your menu. Write down a line, and condense it to its most concise phrasing. 

Three Examples of Effective Restaurant Instagram Bios

An example of a branding-focused account is that of the ramen shop Ippudo (@ippudo – 9,541 followers). This is their IG bio: 

New York > San Francisco > Los Angeles
Tonkotsu ramen from the heart of Hakata Japan to hearts of millions across the USA.

The new visitor is left without any question about how this restaurant operates. This style is perfect for a restaurant account that wants to focus on its branding over promotion.  

In contrast, see the way Deli Pasapalos (@delipasapalosmcbo – 1,124 followers) writes their bio: 

Delivery🛵 & Pick Up📍
| Pasapalos | Desayunos | Catering | Congelados | Tequeños al Mayor |
Ordena Aquí💬

This restaurant’s bio is one great call to action (CTA) for customers to order for delivery, which is followed in their feed by a series of photos that show large portions of delicious-looking snacks. This sales-oriented approach is complete with a Whatsapp number.

Your account can also blend branding with a promotion. For the best results, keep the language simple and concise, the way boba tea company Tiger Sugar does (@tigersugar.usa – 18,400 followers): 

🥇The original black sugar boba tea with fresh cream mousse and a unique tiger stripe design.⁣⁣ 🐅 #tigersugar#boba#bubbletea ⁣

Their bio incorporates the elements we discuss here: branded and product hashtags, emojis, and a straightforward description. For a final touch, they call users to click on a URL for their company’s TikTok account. 

As these three examples show, there are many ways to write an Instagram bio. The content that follows the first line should align with your marketing goals. Decide if your bio focuses on branding, promotions, or a combination of both.  

Incorporate these six elements to create an engaging bio for your restaurant. 

Wait, But What If You Want to Have a Minimalist Bio?

When you have a huge following or a long list of customers, you can reduce your bio to just the basics. A great example is the famous NYC ramen restaurant Momofuku, from celebrity chef David Chang. With a cookbook, guest appearances on cooking competitions, and even an ABC sitcom based on his childhood, Chang has a significant advantage over competitors when it comes to marketing. 

Because of its immense following, Momofuku’s Instagram can afford to break all the rules. It has a different username than the restaurant’s name (@momolongplay – 554,000 followers) and a reduced bio of: “restaurants | pantry | goods | classes,” followed by a link to its website.

It doesn’t get simpler than that. If your marketing goal is to cultivate a strong brand image, rather than attract new followers or customers, then give this minimalist approach a try. You can offset this spareness with physical CTAs in your restaurant — for instance, you could print your IG handle on packaging, napkins, and stickers, or put signs in the bathrooms and on the tables. 

Build Your Community by Following the Right Accounts 

The fourth step in establishing your Instagram presence is to follow other accounts. It might sound counterintuitive, yet there is a method to, and good reason behind, this practice. 

The accounts you follow establish who you identify as members of your community. For instance, vegan restaurants could follow the World Wildlife Fund or PETA. Also follow popular accounts that your followers follow. When you like their posts, your followers will see this and feel a closer bond with your brand. 

Depending on how much time you plan to spend on Instagram, you can also add friendly comments to posts by these popular accounts. This will attract attention from your followers and help you gain new followers too. 

This is an Instagram strategy that requires time, yet it’s a powerful way to build a community and grow engagement. 

One time-waster to avoid is the follow-for-follow strategy. This means you follow a large number of accounts with the intention of getting them to follow you back. A follow-for-follow strategy follows random accounts at bulk and often does not lead to a follow back. The result? You grow the number of accounts you follow, without growing your number of followers. And those who do follow back are not authentic followers. Instead of building a real following with people who know and love your restaurant, you’ll end up wasting energy on strangers who might never visit your location.

Prioritize your communications with your restaurant’s target audience. With a genuine following, you’ll be able to drive traffic and increase sales for your restaurant through Instagram.

Part 2: Creating Content for Instagram

The Four Sacred Rules of Instagram

When creating content for Instagram, follow these four guidelines above all others, as they will keep your account interesting and authentic. 

1. Be consistent. Post two to three times a week, week after week. As followers learn they can rely on you for fresh new content, engagement rates should increase with each post and Story. Instagram’s algorithm also likes consistent accounts, giving yours an advantage over less active ones. To combat the inevitable case of poster’s block, prepare two or three posts in advance, and save them in your drafts section for an emergency.

2. Be real. Instagram users are used to being sold to, and that has made them jaded to the polished account with a big ad budget but zero personality. Stay away from false perfection. Share your real story. 

Miami baking sensation Zak the Baker is proof that authenticity garners high engagement rates and loyal customers. The account @zakthebaker (126,000 followers) is dedicated to revealing the process behind Miami’s coolest bakery, sharing everything from the messups to the highlights. Next time there is a #fail onsite at your restaurant, be inspired to share it. 

3. Don’t post ugly pictures. This is a visual platform; therefore, it should go without saying that photos should be attractive. Except, there are accounts that post terrible photos. Everyone has seen them. And we all wonder, why? 

Do not be that restaurant that posts awful photos and then wonders why there’s low engagement. To have a successful IG account, aesthetically pleasing content is nonnegotiable.

4. Keep your content cohesive. The latest trend for posting is to have a cohesive look for all photos. When users visit your Instagram account, they will see your bio, Story Highlights, and the photos that follow. It’s considered outdated to have a jumble of colors or filters. The best Instagram accounts are now planning their posts to have cohesion. 

Some techniques to consider:

  • Try to post photos using the same filter and similar lighting. 
  • You could create an attractive checkerboard look by alternating between light and dark photos. The NYC/Provence-based truffle company Trufflin’ has a gorgeous Instagram feed that features this stylish look (@trufflinnyc – 11,400 followers). 
  • Decide on a color palette and, similar to the checkerboard look, create a pattern of posts based on those colors. 
  • Blow up a single image and turn it into three, six, or nine posts that will collectively show the whole image (also known as a “puzzle feed”). The drawback of this is that while these posts look great afterwards, they draw low engagement scores in the moment. Consider posting these on slow days or hours. To photo-split your images, try the free program ImageSplitter by Chron.
  • Choose a grid layout for greater visual impact. Visit this page for examples. To help you create a cohesive Instagram grid, use a program like Canva to select images and plan posts.

How to Choose Photos and Write Captions

In this section, we’ll look at two key components of any standard Instagram post: the images and the text.

Choosing Photos for Instagram

As you start reviewing your photo library, think about the themes that describe and define your restaurant, and find photos that fit into those categories. They can be anything integral to your business, such as:

  • Sourcing ingredients from local farmers
  • A boisterous team you’re proud to work with
  • An exceptionally beautiful and well-designed restaurant space
  • Loyal customers whose names you know
  • Your hunt for rare spices or herbs
  • Eco-conscious practices and beliefs

Each restaurant has points of pride that can be revealed on Instagram. Decide what they are for your restaurant to help you stay focused on a cohesive brand message. Over time, these categories will become sources of inspiration for new content.

As you’re pulling old photos, consider their overall look. For business accounts, as mentioned above, it’s best to maintain a consistent color scheme and filter. Your brand’s personality should shine through with every post and Story. 

The same goes for taking new photos. As you start snapping photos, you’ll acquire a special style or look. (Don’t forget to be objective and follow the third sacred IG rule: no ugly photos!) 

For more tips, we love this list of photography hacks for social media. 

How to Write Captions for Instagram

For many social media users, writing captions is the hardest part. Have no fear! With practice, you’ll get more used to it (and have more fun with it). Here are some tips for great Instagram captions:

  • Why are you posting? Whether a post is promotional or features a behind-the-scenes look, focus on its goal to determine what you’ll say. 
  • Lead with a hook. In other words, get your followers excited by starting with an action word, joke, or interesting detail. 
  • Add value to your captions by teaching your followers something they would care about. 
  • Write with your personality. You’re not a robot and shouldn’t sound like one! 
  • Tempt readers with adjectives and sensory words when describing your food. Don’t just write “ribs”; promote your food to newbies with “fall-off-the-bone, tangy ribs.” 
  • Use emojis. They’re fun and colorful — why not? 
  • Post length can vary, but do avoid posting lengthy captions back to back. Unless they add great value, the general rule of thumb for writing captions is “less is more.”
  • If you must, use one or two hashtags in the caption, but no more! Add the rest of your hashtags in a separate comment. (See our section on hashtags for more.) 

For Inspiration, Here’s a Roundup of Our Top 5 Favorite Instagram Accounts:

Eleven Madison Park (@elevenmadisonpark) – Just like at their restaurant, the visuals are clean and bright. But what we love most is their blend of promotions, behind-the-scenes pics, and storytelling that shows the spirit of the restaurant. 

Jjanga Steak & Sushi (@jjangalv) – For lack of a better word, this account is strictly #foodporn. Known for its over-the-top sushi-inspired creations like the sushi burger, Jjanga has an account on which every photo screams “eat me,” and frankly, we can’t look away. 

Federal Donuts (@federaldonuts) – The donut spot extraordinaire of the East Coast, Federal Donuts has the concept of cohesion down pat on their IG account. The color scheme is fun and inviting, and the photos are clean and clear. It’s the perfect combination of food cravings and promotional updates. 

Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (@coopersbbq) – This Texan institution from the ‘60s has a pretty savvy approach to Instagram that rivals the more viral content out there. First, the captions make you chuckle. Second, the photo rotation of succulent-looking meats, branded spice rubs, and well-framed portraits of founders, family members, friends, and favorite customers shows a restaurant that’s full of heart and knows how to blend tradition with the now. 

Pietro Nolita (@pietronolita) – This account is the best example of a restaurant that was born out of the Instagram movement. Its color theme is pink, and pink is what you get. The photo categories dance between great-looking food and whimsical images, with inviting captions from a hostess who wants her guests to come as they are and leave tipsy on mimosas.  

Restaurant Instagram Accounts We Love

See more great feeds.

The Importance of Using Hashtags

There is a lot of confusion regarding the use of hashtags. Below, we share our guidelines for creating a great hashtag list and using hashtags to drum up business.

What’s a Hashtag, and Why Do You Need to Use Them? 

A hashtag is basically a category. When the pound sign is used before a word, Instagram is given a signal that there is new content in a category. A word becomes a “hashtag” and joins the basket of content that also uses the same hashtag. There are infinite categories and, therefore, endless possibilities for hashtags. 

Hashtags are useful for several reasons:

  • Your page gets in front of new eyes. Users who might never have discovered your account now have the chance to find it. 
  • You can target your ideal customer. Like accounts, people also follow hashtags. Identify the ones your target customer follows to bring your content to the best audience for your restaurant. 
  • You have a complete record of customer posts that use your restaurant’s brand hashtag. All the content customers post about your restaurant is free marketing. With a brand hashtag, you bring this free content together in one feed for others to view.
  • You can mobilize customers in a region or area. With a sponsored hashtag, you can get your community excited for an upcoming event or promotion. 

MenuDrive Tip: When it comes to the number of hashtags, there are different schools of thought. Some argue that posts should not use more than seven hashtags, and others insist on using the allotted 30. Our suggestion? Go with the general consensus that says 11 hashtags is a good place to start. 

Creating a Hashtag List for IG Posts and Stories  

Here are some tips on building an optimized hashtag list for your restaurant.

  • Create a brand hashtag. This is an absolute must. Every business should have its own unique hashtag to take advantage of free marketing. When customers post about your restaurant, their content could get lost in the ether. But that won’t be the case if they use your restaurant’s branded hashtag! Their images and videos will then be easily discovered by curious potential customers.
  • Location, location, location. Select one or two hashtags that are related to your location, such as your city and neighborhood. People follow hashtags often follow location-related hashtags to stay up to date with events in their neighborhood.
  • Foodies united. Help your target customers find you by using hashtags that are menu related. Even if you don’t post a picture of food, add one or two hashtags to make sure you get in front of the right foodie community. 
  • Find the pulse of your community. Take the time to view the IG accounts of your competitors, community leaders, and local influencers to find out if there are special hashtags used in your community. You don’t want to miss out on those hashtag categories. The same goes for hashtags used by your target demographic. 
  • Include campaign hashtags. Unlike location or branded hashtags, campaign hashtags have a shelf life. They are linked to special events, promotions, launches, or partnerships and are a great way to excite followers. Create and use a campaign hashtag to build a lot of engagement fast. As an example of a campaign hashtag, if you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party, you can create a hashtag that combines your brand name and the event #nyewithfriendsofmyrestaurant. Start using the hashtag several weeks before the event to build buzz and excitement. 
  • Add hashtags that are relevant to a post’s topic. Your posts will naturally fall into categories based on their content and topic. Following the previous guidelines, create keyword buckets for the different categories you will post about. For example, if your restaurant is sustainable, create a list with sustainability-related hashtags to use on posts that are related to your eco-conscious efforts. Use a mix of broad and specific hashtags. 
  • Include hashtags with a range of popularity. Regardless of your post theme, have a selection of tags that range in popularity. For example, #italianfood (15.2 million posts) #eataly (682,000 posts), #burratacheese (74,200 posts), and #cheesaholic (8,100 posts) could all be used at an Italian deli. That way, your posts won’t get lost in categories that have millions of posts, and they won’t be relegated to obscurity either. Your content will be seen by a variety of users and communities.

It used to be important to use only the most popular hashtags, like #instagood (1.3 billion posts) or #food (438 million posts), but trends are changing. It’s now better to incorporate niche hashtags. Find hashtags that are smaller, specific, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your restaurant. Emerging trends might also inspire a new hashtag, so keep your eyes open for new hashtags that fit your brand or attract a target audience. 

That said, avoid hashtags with super limited content, like #sicilianspice (24 posts). This hashtag would not help you get discovered by a new customer, as it’s not used by enough accounts. 

Adding Hashtags to Your Posts

Once you’ve created a hashtag list for your restaurant, open a new note on your phone or tablet and organize your hashtags into post categories. Your unique hashtag, location tags, and community tags should be included in every post. Organize the rest by category. 

Because you now have these hashtags already saved and categorized in the device you use to post on Instagram, the hard work is done. Just copy and paste the right list to a post. 

When adding a hashtag, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Numbers and emojis are allowed, but special characters like ! or $ are not. 
  • Posts made with private profiles will not appear publicly on hashtag pages. 
  • You can add hashtags only to your posts, not to other people’s. 
  • You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post and 10 on Instagram Stories. 

Our last piece of advice regarding hashtags: Consider putting hashtags in your post’s comments instead of its caption.

There is a great debate about this. One Forbes study found that when accounts have over 100,000 followers, they see a higher engagement when the hashtags are added in a comment. For accounts with fewer than 100,000 followers, there is higher engagement when the hashtags are in the caption. 

Yet there is something to be said for aesthetic, and having hashtags in the caption can detract from your compelling post. Consider first posting content without hashtags, then creating a new comment under the post and adding the hashtags there. 

Boost Engagement with Instagram Stories

Put using Instagram Stories for restaurant marketing high on your to-do list! As the experts at Sprout Social put it, “Stories should remain a staple of your content strategy, especially as they allow brands to ‘skip the line’ in followers’ feeds and aren’t restricted by the Instagram algorithm.”

In Stories, content can be pre-planned or posted organically. You can post about promotions, upcoming events, or daily menu specials, or you can post real-time photos and videos of what goes on behind the scenes. 

Stories are a great way to increase engagement for free or with paid IG ads. Below are some examples of how to do that: 

  • Encourage Story shares by using playful GIFs and stickers. 
  • Take polls and get direct customer feedback. This is perfect for testing out a new recipe or rolling out new menu items.
  • Invite influencer takeovers of your Instagram account to increase engagement. Nearly eight out of 10 businesses say IG Stories have had a massive impact on influencers’ content about their brand.
  • Increase lead generation and sales by posting links.
  • Answer customers’ questions through storytelling. When marketers solve problems with compelling stories, they see a 30% boost in conversion rates, according to one study.
  • Use the “swipe up” feature to attract new followers.

The single most important rule for posting successful Story content is that it needs to be relevant to your account!  

Create Instagram Stories Highlights 

We recommend creating a series of permanent Stories for your account, aka “Instagram Stories Highlights.” Highlights are displayed in a prime position: underneath your bio and above your feed. Here, you can direct followers to your most valuable and interesting content, showcasing the best qualities of your restaurant.

A regular Story on IG is available for 24 hours and then vanishes. But when you add a Story to a Highlight category, it remains on your account. Think of the Highlight categories as a curated selection of your Stories that all followers — both old and new — can view. They’re a brilliant way to be creative, show off your menu, drive traffic, or market your promotions. 

You can also think of Highlights as an expansion of your bio. What you couldn’t fit into 150 characters can be spotlighted here. 

Many restaurants use the Highlights section, including burger empire McDonald’s (@mcdonalds – 3.9 million followers). Theirs is a good example of how to share a brand story or guiding philosophy. McDonald’s uses its Highlights for social activism and to reenforce its brand personality. They have a “Thank You” Highlight category featuring photos of first responders, policemen, firemen, and doctors lovin’ a McDonald’s treat on their downtime. These photos are followed by a “Thank You Meal” Highlight category, explaining how service members can get a Thank You meal on the house. 

MenuDrive Tip: Create a Highlight category that focuses on your restaurant’s story. It could be about the chef, founder, or shared philosophy of the team. Instagram viewers are hungry for Stories and will gravitate toward restaurants that share theirs. 

Examples of Highlight Categories to Create for Your Instagram Business Account:

  • Influencers — Dedicated to the influencers or celebrities who visit your location, including local personalities
  • BTS — Behind-the-scenes photos and videos with the chef, host, bartender, and team
  • Menu or hot sellers — Pictures of your menu or most popular dishes
  • Diet — Guide diet-conscious followers through your menu.
  • Promos — Advertise your daily specials or regular promotions here.
  • Delivery — Let followers know that you offer delivery, and show them where they can place an order.

Things to Keep in Mind as You Design Your IG Highlights: 

  • They are organized as “first created, last in row.” The first Highlight that appears under the bio is the newest. 
  • You must post to the 24-hour IG Stories first, then manually add the Stories to Highlights
  • Feature a combination of short Highlights and long Highlights. Any promotional categories should have a limited number of Stories to keep the viewer’s attention. 
  • If you forget to add a Story to Highlights before the 24 hours are over, don’t worry — Instagram archives your Stories for you. Just keep the auto-archiving feature turned on (Instagram does this for you automatically), and you have the freedom to highlight at your pace. (Find this setting under Privacy and Security settings > Story Controls.)
  • Create beautiful Highlight covers. These are the round “buttons” that appear for every category; you can choose images for each one. You can upload photos from a device or make branded covers using programs like Over. Having branded thumbnails adds polish and cohesion to your restaurant Instagram page. 

Meet Instagram Reels: The New Kid on the Marketing Block

Instagram Reels is the hottest new tool on Instagram because it gets accounts a ridiculously high reach. Reels are three- to 15-second clips with a soundtrack playing over them, resulting in engaging and entertaining video content. Through the IG app, users can be as creative as they want and create multi-clip videos with various effects and audio. 

For young or lesser-known IG accounts, Reels are a terrific way to grow your reach, followers, and likes without paying for ads or resorting to dubious tactics. (Like buying followers. By the way, if you’re thinking about it. Don’t.)

Reels are shared in the Explore tab, on feeds, and in the dedicated Reels feed on your profile. It’s not clear why, but Reels experience a higher organic visibility and reach than posts and Stories. 

For a smaller account, this is great news. If a Reel is highlighted in the Explore tab, your account will become discoverable to a new community that might not have found you otherwise. 

IG Reels are also a fresh way to connect with your existing followers. There are many formats and editing styles at your disposal that will excite your base and revitalize your engagement. 

For more on Reels, read this introduction by Instagram.

The Beginner’s Guide to Restaurant Marketing

Get the complete guide to everything you need to know about restaurant marketing.

PART 3: Restaurant Instagram Ads and Analytics

Restaurant Instagram Advertising – The Right Way to Pay to Play

If you’re debating whether to pay for advertising on Instagram, let this post end your doubts. Instagram is the most important social media platform at this point in time. A study published by the Pew Research Institute shows that 51% of Instagram users access the platform daily, and 35% say they look at it several times a day. 

Compared to its parent company Facebook, Instagram has a more dedicated following, and its usership is growing. As a demonstration, compare the accounts for New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril. A Mardi Gras-inspired post for his famed Crawfish Bread got just over 300 likes on Facebook, whereas on Instagram, the same post has over 1,500 likes. There is no denying that Instagram’s users are loyal, if not slightly addicted, to the platform. 

According to Hootsuite, 2020 was an instrumental year for establishing Instagram as a formidable advertising platform. Instagram has over one billion users, who use it an average of 30 minutes a day. If you ask the regular millennial or Gen Z-er, though, they will tell you that it’s more like several hours per day. The 18- to 34-year-old demographic makes up nearly 63% of users. 

How does a fledgling account get seen, with so many accounts to compete against? As with Facebook, your restaurant Instagram account needs to rise through the clutter and get in front of the right eyes. Instagram ads are your vehicle to do that. 

The exciting part is that they work. According to Instagram, 60% of people say they discover new products and services on the platform, and 75% take action after being inspired by a post, such as visiting a website or telling a friend.

There is a lot to understand about how IG ads work. Below, we cover the basics in seven steps. (For more on restaurant digital advertising, check out Chapter 5 of the Beginner’s Guide to Restaurant Marketing.)

Step 1. Connect with Facebook Ads Manager

Facebook owns Instagram and is the motherboard for your advertising activities (Instagram doesn’t have its own ads manager). While you don’t need a Facebook account to open an Instagram business account, you must have a Facebook account to operate Ads Manager for that Instagram account. 

Visit this Ads Manager link once you’re signed into the Facebook account that’s linked to your restaurant Instagram account. 

2. Set Your Restaurant Instagram Marketing Objective

Here’s where you make the big decision for your campaign by determining what you want to get out of it. For Instagram ads, you can select from the following targets: 

  • Brand awareness — Expose your restaurant to new and relevant customers. 
  • Reach — Maximize the number of people who see your ads. Facebook offers a split testing feature for this campaign option, allowing you to test two different ads to see which yields higher results. 
  • Traffic — Drive traffic to your URL of choice. 
  • Engagement — Increase your posts’ engagement. When you want more likes, comments, or post shares, this is your go-to goal.

Good to Know

Split testing is available for Traffic, App Installs, Video Views, Lead Generation, and Conversion goals.

  • App installs — If you have an app, choose it from the App Store during setup, then let the Instagram algorithm take over and work its magic.
  • Video views — Show off a new video advertisement or promotion and get more views.
  • Lead generation — When your objective is to collect emails, names, and numbers, these ads will open for users to submit their information. 
  • Conversions — This is ideal for directing users to a call to action, like placing a delivery order through your online ordering platform.

Step 3. Establish Your Target Audience 

One of the reasons for Instagram’s immense advertising success is how well it knows its users. Another is how well it places the right advertisers in front of the right people. When configuring your target market, avoid leaving any section empty.

The Instagram audience categories are as follows:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Demographics
  • Interests 
  • Behaviors
  • Connections
  • Custom audience — here you can upload your own list of contacts and connections you want to upsell. 
  • Lookalike audience — you can use this when your custom audience has been tapped dry.

Next, you’ll be asked to specify how broad you want your audience size to be. This is something you should test out. Most companies strive for a balance between not being too specific (as there will be fewer people who meet all requirements) and not being too broad (as people may be too different from the audience categories). 

Step 4. Select Your Placements on Instagram

This step requires you to specify whether you want your ads placed on Instagram or both IG and Facebook. It’s not an issue to place your ad on both platforms, unless it’s tailored just for Instagram and could therefore lose its appeal on Facebook. 

Step 5. Set Your Budget

Here comes the scary part: spending money! 

You’ll be asked whether you want to spend “daily” or “lifetime.” Daily budgets will prevent you from overspending in a short time, yet lifetime allows you to schedule your ad delivery. For instance, you can schedule ads to run at the specific times of day or week when your audience is most active. 

MenuDrive Tip: Start slow, and explore the advanced options for advertising budgets when you understand your audience better.

Step 6. Create Your Restaurant Instagram Ad 

The serious business is finished, and now you can start having fun. In step six, you get to pour your creativity into making an ad. Choose between an ad for a Story or a traditional post. 

Our best piece of advice is that Instagram is a visual platform. Leave the wordiness for your print ads or Facebook, and draw attention with short, simple copy and eye-catching designs. 

For formatting specifications, visit this design requirements page on Facebook

Step 7. Track Your Performance

Log in to Facebook Ads Manager and check your metrics to understand which posts get the highest responses. In time, the metrics will show you which successful tactics to repeat and which less successful ones to avoid. If you want to dive deeper into the metrics, a tried-and-tested software to use is Iconosquare

Any seasoned Instagram account manager will tell you that trial and error is the only way to learn what works for your business account. Luckily, you can pause and adjust your campaign at any time.

How to Read Instagram Analytics for Organic Posts

When it comes to Instagram analytics, tracking likes and followers is the tip of the iceberg. In this section, we focus on the analytics IG provides for regular, ad-free posting. They reveal crucial behavior data, such as: 

  • Whether you’re targeting the wrong audience
  • If your posting frequency is too low or too high
  • If there is a more optimal time to post (here’s what Hubspot says about that)
  • When irrelevant visitors are coming to your website

Access profile analytics from the “My Profile” page to see insights over one week’s time. These metrics reveal a wealth of information that will help you make better posting decisions:

  • Interactions — The number of actions taken on your account, such as bio views, saves, or shares
  • Impressions — The number of times your posts have been seen during the time frame
  • Reach — The number of unique accounts that have seen your posts
  • Profile visits — The total number of profile views over the week
  • Website clicks —The number of times visitors have clicked the link to your website from your profile page
  • Call/email clicks — The number of times visitors have clicked the call/email button from your profile page
  • Mentions — The number of times your account’s handle has been mentioned by other users

The next metrics relate to your audience:

  • Top Location — See the top five cities and countries your followers are located in.
  • Age range — Find out the age ranges your followers fall into: 13-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, or 65+.
  • Gender — See the ratio of male to female followers.
  • Follower hours — A very important statistic! Know when your followers are most active on Instagram.
  • Follower days — Like hours, see what days of the week your followers are active on. 

MenuDrive Tip: Use the Follower Hours and Follower Days data to schedule your posts for maximum exposure. 

There are also analytics for individual posts. Here you can determine if a certain message, photo style, or theme resonates with your audience. 

  • Interactions — This refers to actions taken directly from your post that are tracked and recorded: visits to your profile, clicks on a URL, or clicks on the call/email button. 
  • Discover — This is an IG feature that helps users find new content to match their interests. This data will show how many new accounts you’ve reached through Discovery mode that don’t follow you.
  • Reach — The number of unique accounts your post reached
  • Saves — The number of accounts that saved your post
  • Impressions — Another important one! It’s the total number of times your post was seen and how the accounts discovered the post. 
  • Follows — How many new followers a post garnered
  • Comments — The number of comments received on a post

The fourth and final set of metrics to know about is Stories analytics. Stories grow your popularity immensely. They get your brand in front of new people and increase exposure to your existing audience.

  • Impressions — The number of times a Story is viewed
  • Reach — The number of unique accounts to view a Story
  • Exits — The number of times users exit a Story mid-way
  • Replies — The number of replies a Story receives
  • People insights — The types of accounts that viewed your Story

Use these metrics to create a restaurant Instagram marketing account that resonates with users. Be sure to track any changes to your data. As your followership changes over time, it’s important to understand why and how.

With this information, you’re ready! It’s time to #werkwerkwerkwerkwerk (85,200 posts). 

That’s all for now. Good luck, and have fun!

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