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Social Media  for Restaurants

Social Media for Restaurants

Last updated on 2/9/2023

To thrive in modern foodservice, restaurants need a user-friendly website and a strong social media presence. 49% of consumers learn about nearby restaurants through social media, and 48% follow a restaurant or food brand’s account. While the potential is great, when operators don’t understand social media marketing, their efforts yield disappointing results. We'll walk you through restaurant social media marketing to help you reach and engage your target audience.

Click any of the links below to skip to the restaurant social media marketing information that most interests you:
  1. Social Media Strategies for Restaurants
  2. Yelp for Restaurants
  3. Instagram for Restaurants
  4. Facebook for Restaurants
  5. TikTok for Restaurants
  6. Restaurant Social Media Post Ideas

Social Media Strategies for Restaurants

Man holding camera taking a photo of a plate of food

Following tested social media strategies will help you maximize your marketing efforts. A clear brand image, consistent posting schedules, and engagement are vital to restaurant social media campaigns. Discover universal restaurant social media best practices below.

1. Create a Brand Voice and Aesthetic

Your brand encompasses your restaurant’s identity, personality, and mission, and your social media presence should reflect your brand. Make the tone of your written copy match how you would speak to your core customer base. If you’re a trendy coffee shop, following social media trends and using slang is appropriate. A family-owned business can add heartwarming touches, like how their son is home from college to help for the summer.

Visually, think of your social media pages as extensions of your restaurant. A brightly lit fast-casual establishment may mimic its interior design by including bright photos with an on-the-go appeal. The social media pages for a farm-to-table, rustic restaurant with an extensive local beer selection should feature a dark and neutral color scheme.

2. Use High-Quality Photos

To get your restaurant's social media accounts started, consider hiring a professional photographer to stock up on high-quality images. If taking your own food photos, research proper food photography techniques. Using natural light, action shots, proper angles, and adhering to your brand are all essential.

3. Engage with Customers

woman using her phone to give a 5 star review rating

While social media use has shifted from conversational to content consumption, it’s still a great way to engage with your current customers and attract new ones. Not only does social media engagement boost guest loyalty, but the social media apps' algorithms reward in-app engagement. When followers interact with your posts and stories, the algorithm interprets that your feed is popular and will show your post to more of your followers. Engagement also helps your posts show up for your hashtags, expanding your existing network.

How to Engage Customers on Social Media

How can restaurants engage with their customers on social media? Use these social media engagement ideas to earn customer loyalty.

  • Respond quickly. Prompt replies to comments, posts, or direct messages create two-way communication. For the best results, answer inquiries within a few hours. A one-day wait time is the longest you should take to reply to patrons on your social media accounts. Make your response times consistent so customers know what to expect when they reach out.
  • Reshare customer photos. Reposting the photos customers tag you in is an easy way to engage them. It also provides more content you don’t have to generate yourself. Since Instagram is visually driven, the photos your customers take probably aren’t high enough quality to go on your feed, but it will excite them if you reshare their pictures to your Instagram story.
  • Share polls. Polling your followers engages them, and it provides you with valuable data. Show different coffee drink flavor options and ask customers which they would rather purchase. Poll customers on which trivia night they would rather attend. This will ultimately help you boost sales and attendance for your live events.

4. Only Post Content That Adds Value

While you should maintain a consistent schedule and post approximately three times a week, never sacrifice quality for quantity. Before posting, ask, “Does this relate to my brand? Will it educate my customers? Will it entertain them?” Sharing interesting, thoughtful posts gives people a reason to continue following and interacting with your page. Avoid appearing spammy by posting high-quality photos which include authentic and thoughtful captions. Whether you are sharing an upcoming event or a new dish, the post is art. The image, caption, and purpose of sharing must provide something meaningful, useful, interesting, or entertaining to followers.

5. Offer Giveaways

woman celebrating winning a giveaway on her phone Offering giveaways on social media is a great way to draw new customers into your restaurant and lure previous patrons back. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals for your giveaway. These goals can relate to a specified number of new reviews, sales increase percentages, lead generation, or new loyalty program members. Once you’ve narrowed down your goals, structure your social media giveaway contest to achieve them.

Types of Social Media Giveaways

There are different types of social media giveaways. Decide which giveaway strategy works best for your business.

  • Host your contest through a third-party giveaway tool. Select a service that will capture people’s email addresses and offers other valuable resources like referral links and social share incentives.
  • Offer prizes to your social media followers. Provide your followers with the chance to win a free appetizer, drink, or dessert at your restaurant for following you and liking, commenting, or resharing one of your posts. Then, randomly select one participant.
  • Exchange reviews for a free item. Get more reviews by offering patrons who leave a review on your Google My Business page, Yelp page, or Facebook page a free item.
  • Do a food photo contest. Have customers submit photos of your food and award a prize for the best photo. You can also use the photos your customers submit as content. Patrons will go to your restaurant to photograph your food.
  • Memory photo contests offer a heartwarming touch. Participants enter by submitting photos of their best memories at your restaurant. Whether that be a birthday celebration, an anniversary, or a proposal, this is a great way to build loyalty with clients and market yourself as a staple in your local community. Encourage captions that tell the stories behind the photos.

Restaurant Giveaway Ideas

What should your restaurant gift social media contest winners? Discover some restaurant social media contest giveaway ideas below:

  • House-Made Products - Giveaway your house-made ingredients. BBQ restaurants can give their homemade spice rubs. Offer bottles of your signature sauce. Coffee shops can give away their house-roasted beans. Whatever makes you unique can be offered in your giveaway.
  • Gift cards - This will draw the winner into your restaurant, and they will probably order more food than what the gift card covers. Even if they don’t, if they have a positive experience, they will return.
  • Giveaway Bundle - Partner with other local businesses to create a giveaway bundle for the perfect night out.
  • Free ___ for a Year - This is a big giveaway, but it will attract a lot of interest. Some restaurants choose to give away a free meal for a year. You can choose a specific, lower-cost item like free boneless wings for a year or free pizza for a year. The winner will probably bring friends with them to enjoy their free item, drawing in more clients. They’ll also become accustomed to dining in your restaurant and will continue the pattern after the year ends.
  • Cooking Class - Offer a cooking class as a giveaway. Whether you operate a bakery and teach people how to make a sourdough starter or you’re a chocolatier instructing people on how to make ruby chocolate truffles, cooking classes offer a lot of value and build deeper relationships. Since putting on the class will take effort, this giveaway option will allow you to select multiple winners.
  • Merchandise - Restaurant merchandise is a classic giveaway option. While t-shirts and koozies are timeless, we recommend you get creative with your giveaways. Breweries can giveaway branded beer glasses, ice cream shops can gift branded ice cream scoops, and wineries can giveaway branded wine stoppers.

6. Stay Professional

You must not act differently online than you would in the middle of your restaurant, because everyone you interact with online is a potential customer. Give them the same respect as you would someone eating in your dining room. This goes for those posting about a positive experience or followers who may be providing you with some critical feedback.

If you’ve decided that a certain social media channel isn’t right for your business, do not abandon your profile. An old, outdated profile can look unprofessional or lazy to potential customers who stumble upon it. This can leave the impression that you don’t care enough about your business to maintain a solid online presence or that your business may be closed. Instead of abandoning a profile, simply delete it altogether.

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Best Social Media for Restaurants

Man holding iPad smiling next to chef

The best social media platforms for restaurants are Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. We go over the best social media platforms for restaurants, their benefits, and how to maximize your profile on each.

Yelp for Restaurants

Whether you claim your profile, your restaurant will likely end up on Yelp, so it’s better to actively monitor your reviews. Since people go to Yelp to read reviews and find information, make sure your restaurant’s information (such as hours, phone number, website, and location) is up to date. You can provide information about upcoming events and specials, so those looking for reviews for your restaurant before booking a holiday reservation know what specials they can enjoy on their visit. You can upload staged photos of your dishes to ensure there are high-quality photos alongside the lower-quality images customers provide.

As a review site, make sure you respond to both positive and negative customer reviews. Responding to positive reviews builds loyalty, and people are more likely to forgive a negative review if they see that your business took efforts to make up for the bad experience.

What to Include on a Restaurant Yelp Account

Here is what you should feature on your restaurant's Yelp page to make the most of it:

  • Make a Reservation Button - This allows people to reserve their spot with you without having to navigate away from your Yelp page.
  • Up-to-Date Information - Make sure your address, hours, contact information, and website are up-to-date.
  • Menu - Include a link to your full menu.
  • Popular Dishes - Feature attractive photos of your best-selling dishes and their prices.
  • Staged Images - This ensures there are good photos of your food.
  • Comment Responses - This earns loyalty from fans and puts out fires with patrons who have had negative experiences.

What and When to Post on Yelp Connect

Yelp Connect allows you to highlight the unique features of your business. This could be menu updates like new delivery options, new items, or a new brunch menu. Post timely updates like seasonal offerings, holiday hours, and live events. Or you can make evergreen posts that highlight popular dishes, menu items that accommodate alternative diets, and ongoing weekly specials like Taco Tuesday.

You don’t need to post on Yelp as regularly as other social media pages. Just give patrons ample time to plan for any events advertised. Post weekly specials the day before they begin so guests can plan to visit your restaurant while they’re available.

Instagram for Restaurants

hands holding iPhone taking photo of a plate of food and tea below

Instagram marketing is a great way for restaurants to engage with their customers since food is the most popular thing to post on the platform. Many millennials and Gen Z check a restaurant’s Instagram page before making a reservation. The brain processes visual data 60,000 times faster than text, so, as the most visual social media platform, Instagram is a powerful tool for relaying information. The most Instagrammed food is pizza, so promote your pizza pictures on your feed. Set up your restaurant's Instagram account as a business profile to create Instagram Ad campaigns, set contact options, and access general analytics.

What to Include on a Restaurant Instagram Account

  • Bio - Your Instagram bio should clearly explain your brand as a LinkedIn bio would but with a lighter, more creative tone.
  • Saved Story Highlights - Save and appropriately label story highlights to your profile that showcase pertinent information like recurring weekly events and happy hour specials.
  • Consistent Aesthetic - Your restaurant's Instagram profile should follow a theme and tell a visual story. Keep your filters and editing processes consistent for all your posts. You can use an Instagram grid app to check how your posts will look alongside each other before posting.
  • Online Ordering - Allow customers to place online orders from your Instagram account by adding an Order Food button to your profile or a Food Orders sticker to an Instagram story.

What Are the Best Times to Post on Instagram?

The best times for a restaurant to post on Instagram are mealtimes or in the later evening when people have time to scroll. Post on your restaurant's Instagram page at 9 AM, between 12 and 1 PM, and at 8 PM.

How Often to Post on Instagram

Post three evenly-spaced Instagram stories a day. Measure your analytics and post them around popular viewing times for your target audience. Make at least two Instagram Feed posts a week.

Facebook for Restaurants

Facebook is a great platform for restaurants targeting a slightly older market. It isn’t as aesthetic as other platforms, so you don’t need tons of hyper-polished images. Set up your Facebook account as a “Local Business or Place” to access data and analytics insights. You’ll also have the option to create Facebook Ads that target your audience. They designed their ads tools for small businesses with limited advertising experience. If you’re throwing an event, you can create a public event on Facebook to attract more customers.

What to Include on Your Restaurant Facebook Page

Most users will go to your Facebook account for information, so make sure you include the following:

  • Professional Cover Photo - As the most prominent visual on your Facebook page, your cover photo should be professional looking.
  • Contact Information - Make it easy for patrons to get in touch with you.
  • Link to Your Website - While your Facebook page should cover the basics, you’ll want interested viewers to be able to access all the information on your website.
  • Online Ordering Link - Allowing viewers to place an order from your Facebook page encourages impulse sales.
  • Your Menu - Many people who visit your restaurant's Facebook page will be looking for your menu.
  • Specials - Promote any weekly, seasonal, or holiday specials you’re offering.
  • Events - Create public Facebook events to advertise your restaurant events.

What Are the Best Times to Post on Facebook?

According to Forbes, the best times to post on Facebook are 1 to 3 PM and 7 PM during the middle of the work week.

How Often to Post on Facebook

Post on Facebook once or twice per weekday and once over the weekend

TikTok for Restaurants

a man recording a TikTok to teach professional baking tips

TikTok was the top app downloaded worldwide in the first quarter of 2022, according to a Sensor Tower Report, making it a vital tool for restaurants to access and engage potential customers. It drives the popularity of short, vertical videos shot on smartphones which are the most popular content on the internet. The beauty of TikTok content is it doesn’t have to be ultra-polished. Anyone with a smartphone can create these short vertical videos, so the public is conditioned to appreciate realistic, inexpensive content. You can also repurpose your TikTok videos and upload them as Instagram Reels, which is Instagram’s attempt to capture the popularity of TikTok content.

What to Include on a Restaurant TikTok Account

As a newer app, knowing what your restaurant should post on TikTok and how to maximize your efforts can be tricky. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Cooking Videos - Show the love, care, and precision your chefs put into each dish. You can repurpose these and start a YouTube cooking channel.
  • Plating Videos - People love to watch creative plating strategies come together.
  • New Menu Items - Encourage followers to come to your establishment.
  • Hacks - Show your viewers food and cooking hacks that will help them in the kitchen.
  • Repost your TikToks to Instagram Reels - Cut down on content creation time.
  • TikTok Trends - Use popular music and audio to create fun video content that befits your brand.
  • Behind the Scenes Videos - Help patrons feel connected to your business.
  • Dining Experience - Get people excited about dining with you, so they choose your business for parties, anniversaries, and events.

When to Post on TikTok?

The best times to post on TikTok are on Thursdays at 11 AM, Tuesdays at 8 AM, and Fridays at 4 AM.

How Often to Post on TikTok

TikTok recommends posting 1-4 times each day.

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Restaurant Social Media Post Ideas

a cameraman filming two chefs for a step by step cooking video

You’ve done your market research to understand your clients. You’ve already created several interesting, educational, and entertaining posts for your restaurant’s social media pages. Now, you find yourself out of ideas. Don’t worry, we’ve provided a few restaurant social media post ideas to spark your creativity.

  • Food Holiday Posts - Participate in national food days such as National Pizza Day, National Ice Cream Day, or whatever food holiday is most relevant to your menu.
  • Local Events - If your city’s sports team makes a championship or your hometown throws any major event like a Mardi Gras parade or a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, create posts that tie in with your community event. It’s smart to create menu items themed after the event, which you can showcase on social media. Consider hosting a party to celebrate the event at your restaurant and advertise it on your social media pages.
  • Candid Photos - Don’t shy away from candid, natural, unedited, or humorous photos taken by servers or staff. These can add a personal touch to your posts that will help guests connect with your business.
  • New Menu Items - From your daily/weekly specials to new menu staples, sharing photos of your new menu items will encourage your followers to try them.
  • Employee Spotlights - Help your customers feel connected to your team and make your staff feel appreciated by creating employee spotlight posts. This can take the form of “employee of the month” posts or a weekly “team member Tuesday” series.
  • Food-Prep - Create behind-the-scenes videos of the food prep process. People love to watch meals come together.
  • Positive Reviews - Share customers' positive reviews. You can convert reviews into images using tools like Canva, or have a graphic designer create some.
  • Local Ingredients/Vendors - If you source local ingredients, show them off on your social media and promote their vendors. Not only does this breed goodwill with your partners, but it also establishes you as part of the fabric of your community.
  • Staff Recommendations - Create a video of your staff members sharing their favorite dish on your menu.
  • Sustainable Practices - Highlight your go-green initiatives, recycling programs, composting efforts, and sustainable sourcing practices.
  • Gluten-Free Menu Items - Nothing builds anxiety for people with allergies, like wondering if they’ll have a safe and delicious food option at a restaurant. Showing off your gluten-free menu items on your social media is a great way to attract customers with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
  • Promote Loyalty Programs - Show off the perks of participating in your loyalty program. Provide a link to join in the caption.
  • Happy Hour Specials - Share photos of your happy hour menu items and provide the days and times in your caption.
  • Restaurant History - Share details about your founding, then and now photos, and other details about your brand journey.
  • Best-Selling Menu Items - Chances are, your followers have tried your signature dish. Seeing a photo of it will remind them how much they love it and draw them back into your establishment.
  • Seasonal Menu Items - From classic fall flavors to Christmas cocktails, show off your seasonal menu on your social media accounts. Since it’s available for a limited time, create a sense of urgency in your captions.
  • Community Involvement - If your restaurant has a booth at any local events or is taking part in a local restaurant week, share your involvement on social media.
  • Vegan Menu Items - If you have delicious vegan menu items, show them off on social media to attract those seeking plant-based menu items.
  • Giving Back - Restaurants that give back to their local communities earn their customers' loyalty. Share the ways you serve others and give to causes your target customers care about.
  • Birthday Specials - If you offer guests a free dessert on their birthday, show off the item guests can enjoy if they celebrate with you.
  • Your Events - From trivia nights to seafood boils, show off the events you’re hosting on social media. Provide the day and time in the caption.
  • Catering - Promote your catering services by showing pictures of events you’ve catered, your catering van, or items unique to your catering menu.
  • Outdoor Spaces - If your restaurant has a great outdoor dining experience, show it off on your social media. Whether you’ve winterized your patio, have a beer garden, or your rooftop bar has a magnificent view, seeing your outdoor space will encourage patrons to visit.
  • Cross-Promote Your Social Media Accounts - Link to your other social media accounts and encourage followers on one platform to follow you on others.
  • Food Contest Winner - If you offer food contests at your restaurant, show off the winner on social media.
  • Pets - Pet-friendly establishments can show off photos of patrons' fur babies at their restaurants. Encouraging patrons to submit photos of their dogs at your eatery for the chance to be featured boosts engagement.
  • Merchandise for Sale - Advertise branded merchandise on your social media accounts.
  • Takeout Deals - Show off your takeout specials to encourage more off-premise dining sales. From cocktail kits to family dinner deals, show patrons how they can enjoy your menu from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Awards - If you receive any awards or recognition, share the news with your customers.
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Social media is always changing, so staying up to date on the latest features, creating unique content, and monitoring your success can feel like a full-time job. Hiring high school- and college-aged students who are familiar with social media best practices is a great way for you to build your brand while providing them with valuable experience. If that isn't feasible, don't lose heart. Devoting even a small amount of time and resources to your social media accounts can help you reach new customers and create relationships with them.

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