How to use Instagram for your Restaurant (Part 1)

Many restaurants feel they are not well suited for using Instagram or that Instagram users are not interested in finding or following restaurants. These assumptions could not be farther from the truth. Consider these facts for instance:

  • According to research by Zizzi, 30% of millenial diners avoid eateries with a sub-par Instagram presence.
  • According to a study of Americans by research firm YouGov, 35% have eaten at a restaurant they saw on social media and another 20% haven’t yet, but plan to in the future.
  • A survey by MGH, also of American diners, found that of respondents who actively follow and engage with restaurants on social media, 74% say they are more likely to visit or order food from those establishments.
  • Additionally, nearly a quarter of respondents indicated they have been discouraged from visiting a restaurant for the first time because of a post from that restaurant.

These are just a few examples to show how important it is today for restaurants to take social media seriously, and if you only start with one platform, then start with a focus on Instagram and let the content automatically post to a Facebook page as well. Consider it two for the work of one.

So how should you use Instagram? First of all, think of Instagram as another search engine. People love to search for restaurants on Instagram, especially when in an unfamiliar location, because they know they will most likely be able to see pictures of your location and food.

Start by optimizing your profile so you are easily found. Unless your restaurant is a familiar brand to hungry customers, they are not likely to be searching for your restaurant by name. They are likely to search by location and/or type of food, so make these part of your Instagram profile and include them in the profile name. Use the description to include your name and a little more about you, but consider something like “Houston Steak House” or “Seoul BBQ Restaurant” at the top as these will be huge help to the Instagram algorithm as it determines whether or not to include you in a particular search result.

What to post? Well, that questions has about as many answers are there are different foods you could choose to serve, but let’s start simple with a few ideas below. Regardless of whether you start with one idea or all of them, keep in mind that social media posts are not advertisements. You should rarely, if ever, treat your social media audience like a TV or Magazine audience. Don’t advertise to them! This will only serve to deter new customers and followers and will also kill the engagement of your current followers. Social media posts should either entertain or educate people. Quality pictures of your food and atmosphere will educate potential new customers about what experience to expect when they visit. Staff being charming, even silly if it fits your restaurant, will entertain your followers and keep them thinking about you and your friendly staff.

About every 8 to 12 posts, it’s OK to include a post that is merely alerting customers to a limited special or sharing a newspaper article or review about your restaurant. But if you do this too much you come off as spammy or annoying and social media users will quickly unfollow you, or worse, just skip your posts telling Instagram that your content doesn’t even interest your followers, so they will not likely show your posts to those who don’t already follow you.

So ideas… ready? Here we go!

  1. High quality food pictures. Even if all you have is a smart phone, it is possible with a little practice to take nice enough pictures of your food. Do it at a slower time, when your staff can take their time and make the food and plating look it’s best.
  2. Images of the restaurant. Especially if you’ve spent a lot of money remodeling to create an inviting atmosphere, include theses images on Instagram.
  3. Make simple videos. Video is more popular than photos on most platforms these days so use it. Even if you just show the same plate of food you might photograph, but as a video. Or put that photo in a video editor and add a simple Ken Burns effect so the image slowly breaths for the viewer.
  4. Reels are all the rage! If you or your staff have the talent, use Instagram’s new Reels feature to make engaging video Reels because, at this time, Reels are getting more views than ordinary posts.
  5. Carousel posts are better than a single image. Once you get comfortable taking food pics, take extra pics from different angles of each item. Then create carousel posts on Instagram that feature one specific menu item. Not only are users more interested in swiping multiple images, when they do, they also spend more time engaging with your post and Instagram then is more likely to spread your post beyond your current followers. Another sneaky little benefit is that if they show your post once and the user doesn’t engage with it, they will show it a second time, using a different image from your set of images, giving the user a second chance to engage.

I want to keep this simple, to help you get started, so I will stop here for now and expand on this topic in a future post.

Suffice it to say that these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. As you get comfortable, learn more ways to engage your customers and potential customers and soon you will be reaping the rewards of healthy social media presence!

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