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Instagram for Restaurants

Instagram for Restaurants

Last updated on 3/15/2023

Instagram is one of the most influential marketing tools a business could use. For many, it’s the first page people check out to understand what your restaurant is all about, even before looking at your restaurant’s website. It’s also how a lot of people find your restaurant in the first place! Below, we’ll go over the best practices for using this social media tool so your Instagram profile can attract new customers and lock in returning ones.

9 Restaurant Instagram Marketing Strategies

If you have an Instagram account for your restaurant, we recommend integrating these best practices into your Instagram restaurant marketing.

1. Post High-Quality Images

High quality image of restaurant food

As a photo-sharing app, this is the most important aspect of Instagram. Your profile showcases all of your photos at once to viewers, so this is your time to convince them that your food and hospitality are worth their time and investment.

If you have a professional camera, great. If you don’t, there is no need to go out and purchase one. You can take high-quality pictures from your phone with a few photography techniques. Plus, photographing from your phone makes it easier to post the images. Here are tips to keep in mind when taking photos of your food, private events, and front-of-house area to post on Instagram:

  • Use Natural Lighting - Food is photographed best in natural lighting. Try to avoid direct sunlight and harsh shadows. Do not photograph your food in fluorescent lighting. If you’re taking pictures of your front of house, use natural or mood lighting.
  • Clutter-Free Table - Gone are the days of photographing finished meals with their ingredients spread out around them. Keep your area clutter-free and as close to what the customers can expect when dining at one of your tables.
  • Do Not Take Pictures of Customers - As tempting as it may be to show people how much guests love their time at your place, they did not sign up for the exposure. In fact, that really takes away from their experience. Instead, take pictures of what your restaurant looks like all set up and ready to go before any guests arrive. That way, potential customers can visualize themselves in your space.
  • Be Creative - Keeping creativity at the forefront of your content means it’s more likely to garner attention and stop people from scrolling. Instagrammers are used to seeing tons of photos of food every single day, so post something scroll-stopping.

2. Create Reels

Instagram reel template

Lately, Instagram has been trying to keep up with the video-based social platform TikTok and its growing popularity, so Instagram introduced a feature called Reels. Reels is Instagram’s version of video-sharing, and it’s been rivaling standalone feed pictures for a while now.

Because Instagram is pushing its Reels feature, it’s in your best interest to use it. Make video content just as you would for one of your restaurant’s TikTok videos, and feel free to post the same videos on both apps.

Restaurant Instagram Reel Ideas

Try out one of these Reel ideas to market your restaurant. Check out our complete restaurant TikTok video ideas list for more, but here are our top three:

  • Spotlight Your Menu - String together different clips of the dishes on your current menu. You can showcase just your brunch menu, wine list, or dessert options, too. Or, show an entire dinner course from start to finish. We also recommend making a video with your wine and food pairing suggestions!
  • Walkthrough of Restaurant - Take your guests through the journey of what they can expect when visiting your restaurant. A clip of the outside of your business, walking in, being seated, a scan of the menu, and the food at the table. This allows potential customers to visualize themselves having this experience.
  • Make a Recipe Video - If your restaurant has a beloved recipe, show users how to make it. Chances are they probably won't go to the trouble to make it themselves, but they will see the attention, care, and expertise your restaurant takes to make the dish.
  • Document Special Events - Whenever your business is putting on a special event, make sure to record small clips from the event to make them into a Reel! That way your customers know what kind of events you put on throughout the year or that you're able to rent out your space for private parties.

3. Share On Your Instagram Story

Instagram stories and highlights on an iphone

The “Story” feature on Instagram is a separate feature on your profile that does not post in your feed. Instead, the Stories are linked in the profile photo of your page. Here, you can post new photos and videos (that don’t have to be so perfect and curated as your feed posts), information about upcoming events, announcements about new menu items, alternative hours for that week, or shareable content that you have been tagged in by guests.

These Stories are only up for 24 hours, but you can save the Stories long-term for people to click through by creating “Highlights”. Highlights show as small circles on your profile under your name and bio but above your feed. You can create multiple different Highlights and organize what content appears in which Highlights. For example, you can create a “Winter Menu” Highlight and put all of your content that has to do with your winter menu from your past Stories into this Highlight.

4. Work With Influencers

Influencers, AKA Instagram users that have a large following, can help you reach their followers by posting about your restaurant. Based on the deal you work out beforehand, they will create a social post that influences their followers to dine at your restaurant.

To do this, start by finding a local influencer that often posts about eating at restaurants in your area. Once you have found a person you'd like to work with, reach out to them. When you message them, ask if they have an exchange rate in place. Usually, the restaurant will provide a free dinner for them and a friend as well as further compensation for their time and transport, in exchange for a Reel, TikTok, Instagram post, and/or Story about your restaurant. But again, ask them first if they have rates in place for this kind of partnership.

5. Link Your Website in Your Bio

Now that you have influenced potential customers to dine at your restaurant through a post, Reel, Story, or partnership with an influencer, they will want to view your menu and make a reservation. Give these potential customers direct access to those features by adding your website to your bio.

You are only able to link one URL in your bio. You can link your website, or you can use a third-party social media tool like Link In Bio. This tool acts as a URL that allows you to house multiple URLs instead of just one. So, this one URL can house a direct link to your menu, reservation page, online ordering, or events calendar to really make it easy for potential customers.

6. Stay On Brand

When you create posts for your various social media accounts, it’s important to stick with one tone of voice. This tone of voice should reflect your business’s brand. Think to yourself what your business’s brand might be: informative and calm, witty and funny, colorful and loud, moody and sultry, chic and sophisticated, etc. Whatever it may be, your content, captions, and comments need to reflect this voice.

What is most important is that you are consistent on your page. 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.

7. Be Searchable

Pasta dinner and wine on a table

Yes, hashtags are still important to use when posting! Hashtags expand your reach by having your post show when people search for the same hashtag that you used. Below are hashtag best practices to use on your Instagram posts and Reels:

  • Try to use 8-15 hashtags per post.
  • Put the hashtags in a comment, not in the main caption.
  • Use hashtags with various volumes to capture a range of audiences. When you think of a hashtag to use, look it up on Instagram and see how many people have used it. Select from a range of high-volume (100,000+), medium-volume (50,000 - 100,000), and low-volume (0 - 50,000) hashtags to throw a large net. It’s tempting to only go for high-volume hashtags, but you are competing with hundreds of thousands of other people for the top spot, so do a range.
  • Use relevant-to-you hashtags that describe your business. For example, if you own an oyster bar, use hashtags like #oysterbar #oysterbar[your city here], #freshoysters, and #oysterrestaurant.
  • Do not keep using the same hashtags every time. Switch them up to reach more people!

8. Interact with Followers to Build A Community

Making and posting content isn’t the only task you need to keep up with on Instagram. If your content is engaging, then people will comment, and that’s a great thing. When people comment, you should comment back to foster a place where peoples' voices are heard. By fostering these relationships with commenters, you are creating a community within your profile.

We also recommend reposting on your Instagram Story. When a customer posts on their feed or Story about their experience at your restaurant, they can tag your account, which allows you to repost on your Story. Reposting their post shows your customers that you appreciate their business and the shoutout. Plus, free content!

9. Stay On Top of New Features

Lastly, stay on top of new features that Instagram puts out. Features like Reels and Instagram Story were not always a part of Instagram, but users embraced these new features and utilized them to their advantage. Also, Instagram rewards profiles that use their features by making your profile more present in the algorithm and Explore page (a tab on Instagram where you can discover tons of different profiles you don't already follow). So, keep your eye out for new features as they come out, and definitely use them! 

Instagram is an excellent opportunity to advertise your business for free. Use our tips to increase your following, expand your brand's reach, and welcome new and returning customers.

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