With 84% of people who use the Internet also using social media, social media marketing is a no-brainer. This chapter of The Beginner’s Guide to Restaurant Marketing focuses on the restaurant social media options available to you. We’ll dive deep into:
- General Tips for Restaurant Social Media Marketing
- Facebook Marketing Strategy for Restaurants
- Restaurant Instagram Marketing
- Restaurant Food Photography Tips
- Twitter for Restaurants
- Restaurant Video Marketing
- Should You Work with Food Influencers?
- Optimize Your Restaurant’s Social Media Marketing With Food Hashtags
- Restaurant Social Media Marketing FAQ
This chapter discusses organic social content. For paid social, check out our chapter on restaurant digital advertising.
General Tips for Restaurant Social Media Marketing
Before we get into specific channels, here are some general best practices for making the most of your restaurant’s social media posts and profiles. These tips will help you stand out on social media.
Think: Original, Unique, and Actionable
There is no strict formula for how to create great posts for social media. Try to be creative, integrating content like meal tips, videos, memes, new ideas that people might find useful, and, of course, mouth-watering food photos.
Be sure to share your current menu on social media. Get creative with it, with plays on words or menu item graphics. Include calls to action (CTAs) to give posts an actionable destination. These could be buttons for directions, inquiries, or “call now” prompts, allowing customers to easily access your business information or reach out to you.
Know When to Be Consistent…and When to Mix It Up
Take some time to consider your restaurant’s brand voice. Is it professional, for a white-tablecloth establishment? Or cheeky, for a retro diner? Keep your voice consistent across all posts and channels.
Although consistency in messaging is important, variety in post type keeps things from ever getting boring. Videos, Stories, multi-image posts, and polls are great ways to maintain a lively feed. Also change the background image on your social channels regularly to keep things fresh.
Be Mindful of Length
If you’re writing posts about your restaurant’s food, keep them short, sweet, to the point, and visually engaging. The goal of your posts is to get customers – whether new or repeat – to pause for a few seconds while scrolling. Those few seconds can make all the difference for sales. If someone clicks a link in a post, comments, or shares a post, you’re on your way to more orders.
When using Facebook, try to keep posts between 40 and 80 characters. Posts have an engagement rate of about 86% when kept at the 40-character length, which drops to about 66% at 80 characters.
Feature Photos That Will Grab Attention
There’s a reason there are 428 million photos (and counting!) with the hashtag #food on Instagram. People love seeing appetizing food photos, and they’ll love seeing your restaurant’s menu offerings on visual display. If you catch them at the right hunger level, they might be inspired to place an order right away.
Also include “action” photos with staff. Feature your team doing what they’re great at, whether that’s tossing dough at a pizzeria or handing a takeout meal across the counter at a quick-serve establishment. (If you feature patrons in images, make sure you get their permission.)
Offer Exclusive Deals and Promotions
Everyone loves freebies. Run a competition, special offer, or giveaway on your social media pages to keep customers engaged. Get your customers to share a post, fill out a form, or visit a certain page on your restaurant website. Not only will you collect information, but you’ll also be able to re-target your audience with Facebook Ads.
Every so often, be sure to use social media to give exclusive offers to your followers. Share limited-time discount codes. Your followers will appreciate being in the know – and getting great deals!
Remember that when you send an offer out is just as important as how. If you’re not sending out offers regularly, consider sending them around holidays and major sporting events.
Spotlight Your Brand’s Reputation
One of the easiest ways to advertise your brand’s reputation is by posting reviews on your social media pages. When someone leaves a review or tags you in a post of praise, share it to let everyone know what people are saying about your restaurant. Sharing a positive review will build trust and ultimately lead to more conversions.
Even if you don’t have any recent reviews, simple brand storytelling will attract customers. How did your restaurant get started? Who are the kitchen staff members who make your food so delicious? How do you engage with your community? Customers are interested in finding out what a business is truly like, how it treats its customers and employees, and why it’s worth visiting.
Perfect Your Hashtag Game
Use hashtags to indicate location if you have more than one, and a separate tag for your restaurant’s name. An example is #DowntownPortland or #TheRosyCafe. Also look for hashtags with trending power. If others are using a popular hashtag, more people will see your post.
Share Your Social Media Channels
Share your social media links with customers through your website, email marketing, and other marketing channels such as on flyers or at the bottom of menus. This will give your customers a chance to connect with you before, during, and after a sale.
Be sure to engage with your customers. If someone tags your restaurant in a photo of them dining at it, thank them for stopping by. Ask questions to invite conversation and show that your social feeds aren’t one-way streets.
When customers send messages or post comments, reply promptly. Since 34.5% of users consider social media to be a vital customer service tool, responding to comments will have a positive impact on your brand reputation.
Track Your Social Stats
You should have a clear picture of how engaged customers are with your social media feeds. Tracking your customer engagement helps you to determine what’s working and where performance could improve. Stats to pay attention to include impressions, clicks, likes, and reach.
Social media management tools can help you track these stats to determine which posts resonated the most. You can use this information to provide more of the same.
Facebook Marketing Strategy for Restaurants
Regular Facebook posts every two or three days should include a variety of post content, such as:
- Reminders about specials
- Upcoming events
- Photos of dishes and behind-the-scenes action
- Recipes (without revealing proprietary information)
As you share information about your restaurant, you can boost the posts to reach a wider audience. Be specific on location, age, and other factors you consider important for your target audience. With minimal investment, you can engage with customers and turn fans into brand ambassadors who spread the word to their social media contacts.
Restaurant Instagram Marketing
Are you ready to up your Insta-game? Instagram is the social media platform best known for its food pictures. It’s an excellent way for you to connect with customers while showing off your menu.
Instagram allows brands to reach and interact with customers directly. With the advent of business profiles, advanced metrics, and bulk schedulers, it provides plenty of advantages for business insights and growth.
There are many ways to strategize your restaurant marketing with Instagram. These include:
Check out the top 10 Instagram restaurant accounts according to Belle Communication, including Taco Bell, California Donuts, and Fox in the Snow Café. As Belle blogger Heather Allen notes, “Beautiful food pics have been a staple of Instagram since its inception, but the best restaurant Instagram marketing goes beyond pretty pictures to really engage the audience with creative content and compelling brand storytelling.”
Restaurant Food Photography Tips
Restaurant food photography isn’t difficult if you know a few key principles. The first rule of thumb is to work with natural lighting. As food stylist Bella Karragiannidis explains, “If you’re in front of a window, use it. But if you have windows all around, your image will be too washed out. You want to aim for having shadows because they create contrast and texture to the subject that you’re photographing.”
Avoid flash, which will create a harsh glare and reflections that will make your food look like it’s floating in space.
Plate your food using the dishes your patrons can actually expect to receive. Clear away clutter like extra glasses, silverware, and condiments. Try showing someone’s hand holding or reaching for the plate or menu item.
Details are everything in food photography. Use fresh ingredients and make sure each menu item looks like it’s just come out of the kitchen.
Additional tips to consider include:
- Keep everything simple: Close-up shots showcasing only the food work best with plain tables and backgrounds. A neutral background will make the food more attractive to the eye.
- Wear a white T-shirt: If a person is in the photo, a white T-shirt will also provide a neutral background and serve as a reflector, allowing more light to hit the food.
A newer trend called a “flat lay” entails taking a photo from above. Arrange items in a triangular fashion so the eye naturally bounces between them without being overwhelmed. There are many examples of flat lays on Pinterest.
Not sure where to start? Search your favorite social media platform and look for photos that appeal to you. Chances are, if you think something looks great, so will your customers!
Twitter for Restaurants
When you use Twitter for your restaurant, consider what’s trending in your neighborhood and the surrounding areas. Create tweets that resonate with your local community. Use hashtags that are relevant and trending to help your tweets get discovered.
As with other social media platforms, Twitter is a great way to showcase your brand voice and menu items. Although it’s good to talk up your menu and specials, make sure you also tweet other content too, like community support or even a funny meme or random thought you think customers might like. As Hootsuite explains, “On average, 32% of Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers say ‘finding funny or entertaining content’ is their main reason for using social media.”
Great Twitter content is original, visual, and engaging, incorporating hashtags and mentions.
Restaurant Video Marketing
Nearly five billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day. That’s just on YouTube; that number doesn’t even factor in videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and other platforms. The amount of video-viewing we do is only going to continue trending up: According to Oberlo, “It’s estimated that by 2022, 82 percent of the global internet traffic will come from video streaming and downloads (Cisco, 2019). That’s an 88 percent increase in traffic share from the 72.3 percent in 2017.”
Videos have a high engagement rate. For instance, Facebook video posts have an engagement rate of 6.09%, compared to a rate of 3.39% for Facebook posts of any kind.
Another reason to do video marketing: Video is indexed by Google and ranks better than text content. Video marketing can move your restaurant to the top of the ranks.
All to say, video marketing is definitely a channel worth investing in!
Here are a few tips and topics for video content:
- Let customers contribute: Some of the best video content used by restaurant brands is customer-generated. A video testimonial is a compelling way to promote your restaurant – and the YouTube format encourages guests to share their videos with their own networks.
- Tell your brand’s story: What is your restaurant’s history? Who is its team? What is its role in your community? What makes it special?
- Use video to make an appeal: Get behind a community group or charity that’s important to you. You could also share community involvement videos, such as footage of a fundraiser night. Doing so raises awareness while encouraging sharing.
- Teach something: For instance, you could walk your guests through how to make the world’s best dough. Instructional videos are evergreen content – they never lose their relevance.
- Use your brand voice: Stick with the brand style you’ve established in any video content, including tone and personality.
- Keep it short: Videos longer than a minute are generally clicked out of before the 20-second mark.
- Promote your videos: Feature them on your website, across social media channels, and on YouTube. Use hashtags to help raise their visibility.
- Transcribe the audio: Most video hosting sites will also transcribe audio. After using auto-transcribe, be sure to proofread the transcription and correct any errors.
Should You Work With Food Influencers?
Many people today tune in to food influencers for recommendations and advice on where to eat. Eighty-nine percent of marketers find influencer marketing to be an effective strategy. Apart from reaching a wide audience, influencers tend to lead to more conversions, as people trust them more than ads. About 92% of consumers trust influencers more than ads or celebrity endorsements.
Among the most effective food influencers are YouTube creators, bloggers, Twitter users, Facebook users, and, above all, Instagrammers. Since food has more appeal when presented in a visual manner, Instagram — where you can reach both millennial and Gen Z audiences — tends to be most relevant to the food industry.
Who Are Food Influencers?
Social media influencers are video-blogging (aka vlogging) specialists who have a high number of followers. Most can be found on Instagram and YouTube.
Food influencers can affect the purchasing decisions of their audience. They’re capable of generating excitement over the food or restaurant they recommend to their audience. Since they’ve built a reputation and relationships with their audience, their opinions tend to resonate.
If you hire the right influencer, you’re likely to see noticeable improvements in your customer inflow.
Choosing an Influencer to Partner With
Finding quality food and beverage influencers is more important than finding just any influencer. Before you sign on with an influencer, research and review their posts and comments from their followers. Make sure the influencer won’t bring any negativity or criticism along with them.
Consider whether their goal is to be popular for the sake of popularity, or if they get real engagement from their followers. A million followers won’t be helpful if they don’t interact. You can gauge this by reading comments and seeing if the influencer’s posts are shared.
In some ways, hiring an influencer is similar to recruiting new staff. Look for someone who meets the following criteria:
- Similar audience of potential customers
- Similar geography and style (a London-based high-end vlogger might not be suitable for a down-home local diner)
- Similar values (a vegan influencer won’t fit well at a steakhouse)
- Can help you achieve your marketing goals (e.g., increased sales, greater brand awareness)
While there are several ways to find food and beverage influencers, you might start by looking at this list: Top 100 Food Influencers to Follow. Find them on Google by searching “name @socialID.”
Optimize Your Restaurant’s Social Media Marketing With Food Hashtags
When using Instagram and Twitter, be sure to include food hashtags so people can easily discover your posts. It may seem silly or awkward at first, but hashtags are important to include because they increase the visibility of individual posts — and that of your restaurant’s brand.
What is a hashtag? Also known as a pound sign or, more formally, the octothorpe, the hashtag has taken on a whole new kind of life on social media. Think of it as a way to connect social media content on a specific topic, event, theme, or conversation. Hashtags make it far easier to discover posts about the things you’re most interested in, because they aggregate social media content for specific topics.
Hashtags are how followers engage with others‘ posts. Twitter and Instagram users can click on a hashtag they come across or directly search for hashtags of interest. If you use those hashtags, they’ll find your restaurant. For example, #seattlefoodie will build connections between people looking for food in Seattle and people who consider themselves to be local foodies.
Where Do I Begin with Hashtags for My Restaurant?
Using hashtags with your restaurant’s social media posts lets you connect instantly with followers who are interested in what you’re offering. Talk about targeted marketing!
Here are some hashtag basics to keep in mind:
- Hashtags always start with # and will not work if you use spaces, punctuation, or symbols.
- For hashtags to work effectively, your social media account must be public. Otherwise, non-followers will never find your posts.
- The best food hashtags are short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t use too many words together. For example, #foodporn is a good one; #tastedsogoodicouldntstopeatingit isn’t the best.
- Be sure the tags you choose are relevant and make sense to your specific business. Also use hashtags that are trending in your area.
- Don’t go overboard trying to catch everyone who likes everything. Limit the number of hashtags on every post: one or two on Twitter and Facebook, and five to ten on Instagram.
The Best Food Hashtags
The best food hashtags, according to best-hashtags.com, include:
Try some of these in your next post, and check the amount of engagement it gets compared to a post with more obscure hashtags.
A tool like Hashtagify will help you rate your hashtags according to how popular a term or word is. Look for appropriate hashtags based on the topics people are searching for.
Want to see more of the top hashtags for restaurants? Our data analysts pulled together a comprehensive list — check it out below.
How to Use Hashtags on Specific Social Media Platforms
It’s important to not just make one post and call it a day for all your social media accounts. Be sure to create platform-specific posts while maintaining brand consistency. Synchronicity in your marketing across all networks helps you build your brand and grow your restaurant’s customer base, while mixing it up across platforms creates variety and keeps things fresh.
If you’re on Instagram, you’re most likely already using hashtags in your captions. But are you doing it in the most efficient way? Here are some tips for mastering your Instagram hashtag game:
- Do your research on which hashtags to use.
- Don’t overuse hashtags on a single post. Don’t add 15 hashtags for a photo; keep it simple and succinct.
- Find inspiration by looking at other Instagram feeds in your industry.
- Create your own hashtag campaigns. Ask customers to use a certain hashtag on photos they post for the chance to win a prize from your restaurant.
- Create a catchy brand-specific hashtag to get your customers involved. For instance, a restaurant called Bold Pizza might use a hashtag like #liveboldeatpizza.
We recommend using five to ten hashtags on each Instagram post. In addition to including hashtags in captions, you can add them in the comments section of posts.
Use hashtags in your Stories and on your brand’s bio page! They can be searched and discovered in the same way that your posts are on Instagram.
Use one or two hashtags per tweet. Research trending hashtags in the Twitter search bar before you tweet.
Tweets can have hashtags anywhere in them. Try using them at the beginning for emphasis, at the end for context, or in the middle to highlight a keyword. Although you can use as many hashtags as you want, bear in mind the character limit of 280.
Add hashtags in the comments when you retweet or reply, and in your Twitter bio as well.
For Facebook, hashtags help with grouping content in Facebook groups by theme or topic. This is important because users are starting to shift to private channels. That said, implementing a hashtag campaign is more challenging on Facebook because so many users make their profiles private.
As with Twitter, use one or two hashtags per Facebook post, and place them anywhere in your post.
Monitor your brand’s hashtags using facebook.com/hashtag/____ with your keyword at the end, and you’ll discover all the public profiles that are talking about that hashtag. You can also search a hashtag using Facebook’s search bar and find people talking about food or upcoming events.
Starting with these tips will help you optimize your restaurant’s social media marketing with every post you create and publish. Be sure to let us know how your social media campaigns are going, or if our marketing team can answer any questions about making the most of your social accounts.
Restaurant Social Media Marketing FAQ
We’ll call it a tie between Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has the largest user base of any social media platform, while Instagram seems like it was made for food photos, with over 441 million #food posts, 77 million #foodphotography posts, and 259 million #foodporn posts (and counting). We recommend using both platforms to draw attention to your restaurant’s food and build a loyal customer base.
Absolutely! But only if you invest in it. Take the time to create unique content that showcases your brand’s personality and food. Not all captions have to be clever, but they do all have to be authentic. And not all photos have to be professionally shot, but they do have to look good. Additionally, although organic social media content is great for building your brand and connecting with customers, to attract new customers, you may need to spend on digital advertising. Organic posts can get buried in the crowd; paid posts are more likely to get discovered.
The median hourly rate for a social media marketing manager in the US is $50 an hour, according to salary.com. An experienced social media marketing manager in a competitive market can earn over $120/hour.
Too many negative reviews on social media can hurt a restaurant’s reputation. After all, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. A restaurant’s reputation can also be harmed if an employee posts something negative or offensive. That’s why it’s important to have a social media policy for your restaurant.
Post a mixture of organic and paid content to Facebook. Organic posts are great for strengthening customer relationships, while paid ads help you reach new potential customers. Feature your food photos, limited-time specials, and content that highlights your restaurant’s personality, such as funny memes for a local hangout spot or elegant interior photos for a white-tablecloth fine-dining establishment.
In general, keep the background simple, such as a neutral table setting that lets the food be the focus. If you experiment with a busier background, with props such as glasses or fabrics, make sure the shot is still composed in a way that brings attention to the food. Props should enhance the image’s storytelling, rather than become a distraction.
Use natural lighting and avoid flash, which creates a harsh glare. Make sure the presentation is uncluttered, with the food as the focal point. Food should look like it’s just arrived from the kitchen. Try a flat lay presentation that has the photo taken from above looking down.
Consider using a tripod to get that perfect (and perfectly clear) shot. This isn’t a hack necessarily, but take time to research and practice. Research aesthetics, angles, and styles of food photos online, and take a lot of pictures to get comfortable behind the lens.
We do recommend video marketing for restaurants. According to Cisco, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. That’s 15 times higher than 2017. The rise of TikTok and IG Reels and continuing popularity of YouTube mean video marketing is worth investing in. For restaurants in particular, video is a great way to share your brand story and spotlight your team.