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Restaurant Instagram Marketing

Restaurant Instagram Marketing

Last updated on 6/18/2018

Setting up an Instagram for your restaurant not only allows you to share enticing images of your food, but it also creates a space to interact with customers before and after they leave your establishment. The best part? Much of social media is free advertising for your restaurant. Check out the tips below to utilize Instagram to the fullest.

1. Stay On Brand

Hand holding iphone taking photo of plate of vegetables for instagram marketing

This goes for both your voice and aesthetic. Adhere to a certain tone in all of your posts, and create a page that encompasses your brand's look. For example, say you operate a whiskey bar that is only open at night and has jazz performances. Your page may have a sultry look with images that feature dark wood, glasses of whiskey, and photos of the musicians. The captions might be witty, or perhaps they have an informative tone and speak about the science of whiskey and the history of jazz. On the other hand, if you operate a fast-casual spot, your page may feature brightly lit images with short captions.

What is most important is that you are consistent on your page. In this way, guests and followers will feel fulfilled when they see that your restaurant brand continues to offer what they have grown to expect of it.

2. Be Searchable


Select an easily recognizable Instagram username, and use relevant business keywords in your profile to help increase your search results. Tag posts with hashtags, and be sure to make them relevant to your brand, image, and location so users can find you.

3. Integrate Instagram with Other Advertising

iPhone taking photo of sandwiches with various notifications

Overlap Instagram with all of your social media accounts.

Even if a user doesn't follow you on Instagram, they still might follow you on Facebook or Twitter. Share photos on all of your networks to increase views and gain followers.

Utilize Instagram's embed feature.

You can add photos and videos to your restaurant website or blog, even if you're not an HTML code wizard. This user-friendly web embed feature lets you simply copy and paste an Instagram photo's code to easily place the image on your website or blog.

Stay Twitter friendly.

Keep your Instagram caption word count under 280 characters. Any caption longer than that will be cut off if someone shares one of your images on Twitter.

Post your Instagram handle in and around your space.

Consider printing your Instagram account name and Twitter handle directly onto your in-restaurant menu. That way, patrons need only to look at the menu to tag you in their latest foodie post. Consider displaying your accounts on your sidewalk sign as well, for those who walk or drive by your establishment.

Of course, keep your clientele in mind when integrating social media into your restaurant's marketing plan. While fast-casual restaurants tend to attract more hashtag-happy crowds, an upscale dining establishment with an older client base might not be the best venue to print social media handles directly onto the menu.

4. Interact with Followers and Reward Them

Create fill-in-the-blank posts.

Girl Taking Picture of Ice-Cream with Phone

Follow the lead of Pinkberry (they have over 60K followers) by posting interactive fill-in-the-blank posts. For example, "The best #pinkberry frozen yogurt flavor is ____"

Ask for customer opinions.

Offering a new ice cream flavor, beverage, or dish? Ask your customers to help you name it! By enrolling customers in the process, they'll feel compelled to continue following you to learn the end result of the contest.

Hold photo challenges.

Encourage customers to share photos and add your restaurant tag. Ask followers to post an iconic image of the city your restaurant is located in or an image of their meal at your restaurant with your business name tagged in the photo. Offer winners gift cards, a free meal, or a similar reward.

Reward customer shares.

Encourage Instagram users with more than 300 followers to post a photo that mentions your restaurant (a hashtag, Foursquare check-in, or similar shoutout) and reward them with a free treat! After all, they just advertised your restaurant to potential customers for free.

Pouring champagne on decadent set party table

5. Make Your Space and Dishes Insta-Worthy

Not only will you have more quality shots to take, but your guests will be more likely to take photos and share them if your food business has attractive dishes and interesting decor. Consider upping your plate presentation, or install some new decor, like plant walls, flowers on the tables, or twinkle lights. Charming decor will create an intriguing backdrop and vibe that guests will want to capture. They will likely tag your business in the photo, especially if they can easily find your Instagram handle. In this way, you are getting free advertising and exposure to your guests' followers who will become aware of your business and may follow you or visit in the future.

6. Share Videos and Stories

Videos and stories allow you to take customer interaction one step further. They give you the chance to share behind-the-scenes action. They also add a personal touch and make your followers feel included. Below are some ideas for creating engaging videos and stories:

  • Uncork a wine bottle, pour into a glass, and raise it to salute the weekend
  • Introduce diners to your chef at work in the kitchen
  • Ask diners for reviews (get permission before posting!)
  • Show a "before" shot of ingredients, the food prep process, and the final dish being served

7. Food Photography Tips

If taking your own photos, it's essential to to understand some basic food photography tips. In this way, you can take high-quality images and share polished content without hiring a professional photographer. See our advice below for taking exceptional food photos.

plate of chips with salsa in middle on table


When showing off your entrees, avoid using flash and harsh overhead lights. Instead, snap photos near a window or softer light source for a natural-looking appearance.

sushi in a line with sauce on top and chopstick next to it

Create action with simple kitchen props.

Place chopsticks by sushi, or a spoon resting in a bowl of soup. Add a piece of silverware to a plated dish. Enhance the drama of a wine glass by showing the wine cork and bottle, or add flair to a mixed drink by placing ice cubes and splashes of water around the serving glass. You can also include a person interacting with the food or drink, which makes it appear even more inviting.

spoonful of sorbet and blackberry

Add texture.

When photographing food with a "mushy" texture (such as soup, stew, or ice cream), add a garnish that contrasts in color and texture from the dish to add more defined dimension to the photo. For example, bright berries are a great accent for ice cream and sorbet, while rich green garnishes like parsley add dimension to soup.

collage of images, including pizza and girl making pizza

Filter images with easy-to-use apps.

A little filtering goes a long way to enhance the quality of your images. Applications like VSCO, Snapseed, Afterlight 2, and A Color Story are all popular for a range of adjustments, like color correction and exposure. They also have a variety of filters to chose from that are not available on Instagram.

bottles of wine and liquor with group of girls in the background

Branch out.

Don't just show off your menu items! Snap a warm, inviting image of your restaurant's interior. Capture photos of your staff working or guests enjoying their food (with their permission, of course). Please note - if you show staff, make sure they're practicing food-safe procedures (such as wearing gloves) to avoid negative feedback for unsafe food handling captured via image.

cup of steaming coffee with a grid over top

Stick to the Rule of Thirds.

Break away from front-and-center pics, and use the rule of thirds to create intriguing images. As shown in the diagram to the left, imagine your photo being broken down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), so that you have nine total parts. Place points of interest at intersection points (shown in red) for a more balanced image. As an example, see the steaming mug of coffee, which is meeting at an intersection point.

Instagram is an excellent opportunity to advertise your foodservice business. By following our tips, you can increase your following, engage your followers, and increase your guest base.

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