Restaurant owners should consider adopting Instagram as part of their marketing strategy because it provides a unique opportunity to connect with potential and current customers.
When used correctly, Instagram can help you increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website or a brick-and-mortar location, and ultimately boost sales.
Not sure how to get started? Here are 34 ways you can use Instagram for restaurant marketing:
#1. Chronicle Every Aspect of Your Restaurant’s Operations
Take photos of entrees, appetizers, dining rooms, and even staff members hard at work in the kitchen. Customers will appreciate seeing the “behind-the-scenes” action, and it will help them humanize your brand.
Have some fun with it and give your followers a sneak peek of upcoming menu items or events. You can even capture a few of your clients having a ball at your establishment — with their permission, of course
Some restaurants have had tremendous success using Instagram Stories to give customers a sneak peek into their day-to-day operations. This can be an effective way to show off your brand’s personality and build a connection with your target audience.
#2. Use High-Quality Photos
Instagram is a visual-based platform. You must, therefore, use high-quality photos. This doesn’t mean that every photo needs to be taken with a professional camera — although that would be ideal.
Nowadays, people are using their smartphones to take high-quality photos and videos. So, if you don’t have a professional camera, that’s okay. Just make sure the photos are well-lit and in focus.
Pro tip: Use natural lighting whenever possible and avoid using the flash. If you decide to use a flash, try diffusing it by covering the lens with a light modifier (such as an umbrella).
Another way to ensure your photos are high quality is to edit them before posting. You don’t need to be a professional photographer or graphic designer to do this. There are plenty of free photo-editing apps that you can use, such as VSCO, Snapseed, and Lightroom.
Spend some time playing around with the different filters and tools each app offers until you find a style that feels true to your brand. Once you find a filter you like, stick with it so that your photos can have a consistent look and feel.
#3. Take Mouth-watering Photos of Your Food
As we mentioned before, people love food porn. And what better way to make someone’s mouth water than by posting a photo of one of your delicious dishes?
When taking photos of your food, you first have to make sure the food is nicely plated. No one wants to see a pile of food dumped on a plate.
Once the food is plated, take a few minutes to style the photo. That means moving around the props, such as salt and pepper shakers, until they look just right. You might also want to add a few sprigs of fresh herbs or a drizzle of sauce to make the photo more appetizing.
When it comes to taking food photos, less is more. You don’t want to overcrowd the frame with too many dishes. Instead, focus on one or two standout items and make sure they’re the star of the photo.
Once you have a few great food photos, it’s time to think about the caption. The caption is your opportunity to be creative and tell a story.
For example, if you’re posting a photo of a new dish you’re debuting, you might want to write something like, “Introducing our newest creation….”
Or, if you’re posting a photo of a dish on your menu, you might want to share a little bit about its history or why it’s a customer favourite.
Remember, the goal is to make people want to order the dish, so don’t give away too much information.
#4. Give Your followers a Glimpse into Your Restaurant’s Culture
Your restaurant’s culture is what makes it unique and sets it apart from your competition. And what better way to show off your culture than by posting photos on Instagram?
You can use Instagram to give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into running and managing your restaurant.
You can also use Instagram to showcase your restaurant’s unique décor and atmosphere. If you have a particularly scenic location, take advantage of it and post a few photos.
Or, if your restaurant is known for its cosy and intimate vibe, you might want to post a photo that captures that feeling.
Whatever your restaurant’s culture may be, make sure to use Instagram as a way to show it off to the world.
#5. Use Hashtags to Reach a Wider Audience
There’s more to hashtags than just slapping a few random ones on your photos (that’s not to say there’s any harm in that). If you use them correctly, hashtags can be a powerful tool for reaching new people and driving traffic to your restaurant.
When using hashtags, you want to find the perfect balance between being specific and popular.
For example, if you’re a pizza place in New York City, you might want to use hashtags like #NYCPizza or #PizzaLover. These are specific enough to help people interested in finding a restaurant within your locality find your photos, but they’re also popular enough to reach a wider audience.
You can also create your own branded hashtag that you’ll use to encourage customers to post photos of your food. That is an excellent strategy to build up a collection of user-generated content that you can repost on your own account.
Just keep an eye on your branded hashtag and make sure people are using it correctly. You don’t want it to be hijacked by someone posting inappropriate photos.
#6. Take Advantage of User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to fill up your Instagram feed without spending hours taking your own photos.
UGC is any content created by your fans and followers, such as photos, videos, or even reviews. And the best part is, it’s usually free!
There are a few different ways you can collect UGC. The first is to ask your followers to post your food pictures and use your branded hashtags in their captions.
Another great way to get UGC is to partner with influencers in your area. That could be a local food blogger or someone with a large following on Instagram.
They can post photos of your food in exchange for a free meal, a discount, or even just some exposure. It’s a win-win situation for both of you.
Once you’ve collected some UGC, repost it on your own account. Just be sure to give credit to the original creator, and don’t forget to use those hashtags.
#7. Cross-Promote Your Instagram Account on Other Social Media Sites
If you want to get the most out of your restaurant’s Instagram account, perhaps you should consider promoting it on your other social media sites.
This will help you reach a wider audience and drive more traffic to your account. And the best part is, it’s really easy to do.
The first step is to add your Instagram account to your other social media profiles. Most platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have an option to link to your other social media accounts.
Take advantage of this and add your Instagram account to as many profiles as possible.
You can also promote your Instagram account by sharing your photos on other platforms. For example, if you have a photo that does well on Instagram, you can share it on Facebook or Twitter and include a link back to your account.
That’s an excellent strategy to get more followers and keep people engaged with your content.
#8. Leverage Videos
Videos are a great way to add variety to your Instagram feed and give your followers a different way to interact with your content.
And there’s no need to get too fancy—even a simple video can be compelling. Keep it under 60 seconds, as that’s the maximum length for an Instagram video.
There are a few different ways to use videos on your restaurant’s Instagram account.
You could give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at your kitchen, show them how you make your signature dishes, or even share a quick clip of your customers enjoying their meals.
No matter what type of video you decide to post, add a caption and some relevant hashtags. That will help people find your content and make it more likely to be shared.
#9. Engage with Customers
Get people talking!
Respond to comments, answer questions, and start conversations with your followers.
You can also post a weekly picture or video and ask people to tag their friends or answer a fun question in the comments.
You can even ask them to “caption” the picture or video for a chance to be featured on your account.
That’s a great way to get people talking about your restaurant and generate some buzz. Be sure to respond to the comments and engage with your followers—don’t just post and forget.
10. Master the Art of Regramming
Regramming is when you repost someone else’s content on your own account.
It’s a great way to fill your feed with fresh, relevant content, and it’s a huge compliment to the original poster.
You can begin by looking for great shots of your restaurant (or dishes) using your hashtag or geotag. When you find one you like, ask the poster for permission to re-gram it.
Most people will be happy to let you use their content, especially if you give them credit and tag them in the post.
There are two ways to regram:
Regramming is where you save the photo to your phone and upload it to your account. Be sure to give credit to the original poster in the caption.
This free app allows you to quickly and easily repost content from other users. Another regramming tool you can use is “Repost for Instagram.”
11. Research Hashtags
You can make yourself searchable by using hashtags.
The best way to do this is by using popular, relevant hashtags that describe your restaurant.
For example, if you’re a pizza place, you might use hashtags like #pizza, #foodie, or #nom.
You can also use location-based hashtags to reach people in your area. For example, if you’re in New York City, you might use hashtags like #nyc or #newyork.
Do some research to find the best hashtags for your restaurant. A quick Google search usually does the trick.
You can also research the hashtags via the Instagram search bar. Look for hashtags that will get you lots of organic views. For example, instead of using #foodie (which has 85 million posts), you might use a more specific hashtag like #foodieNYC, which only has 678,000 posts.
#12. Run a Contest
People love free stuff, so why not run a contest on your Instagram account?
There are a few different ways you can do this.
You can ask people to post a picture of themselves at your restaurant and use a specific hashtag. Then, randomly select a winner to receive a prize.
You can also ask people to share your content and tag their friends in the comments. Again, randomly select a winner to receive a prize.
Prizes can be anything from a free meal to a gift card. Just make sure the prize is relevant to your restaurant.
#13. Use Instagram Ads
If you want to reach even more people with your content, you can use Instagram ads.
This paid service allows you to target a specific audience with your ads.
You can target people by age, location, gender, interests, etc.
Instagram ads are a great way to get your restaurant in front of a larger audience, and they can be very effective.
#14. Get Your Customers Sharing
One of the best ways to market your restaurant on Instagram is by getting your customers to share their own photos and experiences.
You can do this by creating a specific hashtag for your restaurant.
For example, if you’re a sushi restaurant, you might use the hashtag #SushiTime.
Then, encourage your customers to use the hashtag when posting pictures of your food.
You can also offer a discount or prize for the best photo each month. This will encourage people to share even more.
#15. Partner with Food Bloggers
If you want to reach a larger audience, you can partner with food bloggers.
Many food bloggers out there have a large following on Instagram.
Reach out to them and see if they’d be interested in featuring your restaurant on their account.
Most food bloggers will be happy to do this, especially if you offer them a discount, free meal, or gift card.
#16. Host an Instagram Takeover
An Instagram takeover is when someone else takes over your account for a day and posts content on your behalf.
That’s a great way to reach a larger audience and get some creative content for your account.
To do an Instagram takeover, reach out to someone with a large following on Instagram and ask them if they’d be interested in taking over your account for a day.
#17. Use Instagram Stories
In addition to posting photos and videos, you can also use Instagram Stories.
This feature allows you to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
You can use Instagram Stories to give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at your restaurant.
For example, you could share a video of your chef preparing a meal or your staff during a busy dinner service.
Instagram Stories are a great way to give your followers a peek into your restaurant and what goes on behind the scenes.
#17. Use Instagram Live
In addition to Instagram Stories, you can also use Instagram Live.
You can use Instagram Live to give your followers a tour of your restaurant, or you can use it to answer their questions in real-time.
Instagram Live is a great way to connect with your followers personally.
#18. Go Live at an Event
If you’re attending a food-related event, such as a food festival or cooking competition, you can go live on Instagram and give your followers a behind-the-scenes look.
Be their eyes and ears at the event and show them what’s happening. Let them know what you’re seeing and tasting.
#19. Optimize Your Instagram Profile
Begin by setting up a business account (not a personal account for Instagram). This will give you access to advanced features, such as analytics.
Then, take some time to optimize your profile. That means adding a relevant profile picture, a catchy bio, and a link to your website.
Make sure your profile is complete and up-to-date so that people can learn more about your restaurant when they visit your profile.
A perfect example of an optimized Instagram profile is IDC.
Upon landing on the profile, users can quickly tell that the restaurant specializes in ice cream. Moreover, the profile picture, bio, and website link are all relevant to the restaurant.
#20. Build an Aesthetic Grid
Posting yummy food photos is one thing, but if you want people to really start taking notice of your account, you need a cohesive grid.
When someone lands on your profile, they should be able to tell at a glance what your restaurant is all about.
To do this, you need to curate the photos you post carefully. Make sure they are all high-quality and on-brand.
That said, here are some tips for building an aesthetic grid:
- Pick a colour palette and stick to it. For instance, in the image below, Jipinhesconesmy incorporates their signature yellow into almost all of their posts.
- Vary the types of photos you post—for example, alternate between close-ups of food and photos of your restaurant’s interior.
- Use editing apps to ensure all your photos have a similar look and feel.
- Break up your grid into squares to form a whole image.
#21. Entice Your Audience Using IG Reels
Now is the time if you haven’t started using IG Reels yet.
IG Reels is a feature on Instagram that allows you to create short, 15-60 second videos.
Here’s an article from later.com on how to create Instagram reels.
Think about creating highly shareable short-video formats such as:
- How-to videos
- Educational videos
- Product demonstration videos
- Behind-the-scenes footages
Your goal with IG Reels should be to create engaging content to get people talking.
Reels also have plenty of room for creativity. So, don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different video formats.
#22. Leverage Analytics Tools to Measure Your Progress
If you want to succeed with your Instagram marketing, you need to track your progress.
Fortunately, Instagram has built-in analytics tools that let you see how well your posts are performing.
These analytics tools can track your follower growth, engagement rate, and reach.
To track your progress, you can also use third-party analytics tools, such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Eclincher, and Socialinsider.
#23. Timing is Everything in Instagram Marketing
When you’re posting on Instagram, timing is everything.
The best time to post on Instagram is during peak hours or before meals — when people are at their most hungry.
For example, if you’re a breakfast restaurant, the best time to post on Instagram is 7:00-9:00 am.
And, if you’re a dinner restaurant, the best time to post is 12:00-1:00 pm or around 6.30 pm.
Of course, you don’t have to post during these times, but it’s something to keep in mind.
#24. Don’t Overpost
When it comes to Instagram marketing, less is more.
You don’t want to spam people’s feeds with too many posts from your restaurant.
Instead, focus on quality over quantity.
Posting one high-quality photo is better than posting ten low-quality images.
Every audience is different, so it’s important to experiment with your posting frequency to see what works best for your restaurant.
A good rule of thumb is to post 1-2 times per day.
#25. Grow Organically Using IG Guides
IG Guides are a new feature on Instagram that allows you to create long-form, shareable content.
Guides can be used for various purposes, such as sharing recipes, creating listicles, product recommendations, or even promoting events.
The best part about IG Guides is that they’re easy to create and can be repurposed from the other content you’ve already created.
For example, if you have a blog post with ten easy recipes, you can turn it into an IG Guide by adding photos and videos.
IG guide is the perfect way to organize your feed into different food categories, themes, and styles.
#26. Dedicate a Person or Team to Your Instagram Marketing
As a restaurant owner, a common mistake you can make is approaching Instagram marketing as an afterthought.
The reality is that Instagram marketing requires time, effort, and dedication.
You can’t just post a photo once in a while and hope for the best.
To be successful on Instagram, you need to be consistent with your posting and engage with your audience regularly.
One way to do this is to dedicate a person or team to your Instagram marketing.
This way, you can ensure that someone is always available to post new content and engage with your followers.
#27. Take Advantage of Food and Drink Social Media Holidays
You can take advantage of many food-and-drink-social-media-holidays to promote your restaurant.
Some examples include:
- National Pizza Day (February 9th)
- National Coffee Day (September 29th)
- National Doughnut Day (June 7th)
- National Beer Day (April 7th)
- World Vegan Day (November 1st)
You can plan your content around these holidays.
For example, you can post a photo of your pizza on National Pizza Day or share a recipe for vegan doughnuts on World Vegan Day.
This will help you promote your restaurant, showing your followers that you’re up-to-date with food trends.
#28. Create Story Highlights of Your Best Content
Story Highlights are a great way to keep your best content visible on your profile, even after posting.
You can create Story Highlights for any content, including photos, videos, and IGTV videos.
To create a Story Highlight, simply go to your profile and select the “+” sign.
Then, select the Stories you want to add to your Highlight and give them a title.
For example, you can create a Story Highlight called “Best Recipes” and add all of your best food photos.
That is a great way to show your followers what your restaurant is all about and what they can expect from your content.
You can even break your menu into categories, such as “Starters,” “Mains,” and “Desserts.”
Not only that, we strongly insist on paying attention to Story highlight covers. They should be just as beautiful and inspiring as your regular posts!
You can hire a professional designer on Fiverr to create Instagram Story Highlight covers for you. Or use a third-party graphic design app such as Canva to design them yourself.
#29. Create a Memorable, Unique, and Instagrammable Brand Symbol
Instagram is all about virality.
Creating a memorable, unique, and Instagrammable brand symbol is one of the best ways to make your restaurant stand out.
Your brand symbol can be anything that represents your restaurant, such as a logo, mascot, or even a specific dish.
For example, the “I Love New York” campaign used a simple heart symbol to represent the city.
You can use your brand symbol in your posts, stories, and profile pictures.
And it goes beyond the symbols you use on your Instagram account to the restaurant itself. People don’t just want to come to your restaurant. They want to take photos of it as well!
Take the Maison Kitsune chain of cafes, for example. First, they serve instagrammable fox biscuits with snappable beverages.
They have even played around with the restaurant wall colours and design to make it more instagrammable for their customers.
#30. Use Instagram Shopping to Sell Products Online
If you have a product you sell in your restaurants, such as coffee beans or T-shirts, you can use Instagram Shopping to sell it online.
Instagram Shopping is a feature that allows you to tag products in your posts and stories.
When a user clicks on the tag, they’ll be taken to a product page where they can learn more about the product and purchase it.
To use Instagram Shopping, you need to have an eCommerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce.
#31. Photography Tip 1: Master the Flat Lay Shot
The flat lay is one of the most popular photography techniques on Instagram.
It’s a great way to show off your products creatively and stylishly.
Simply lay out your products on a flat surface, such as a table or the floor, then take the photo from above.
You can use props to add interest to your photos, such as flowers, leaves, or even paper products.
And don’t forget to edit your photos! A little bit of editing can go a long way in making your photos look more professional.
And as good as high-range smartphone cameras are, you want to invest in a high-quality DSLR camera to get that crisp image.
It is also important to have a tripod, so your photos don’t come out blurry.
#32. Photography Tip 2: Use Natural Light
Whenever possible, try to use natural light when taking photos for Instagram.
Natural light is the best light for taking photos. It’s soft and flattering, making your photos look more professional.
If you’re taking photos inside your restaurant, sit near a window so you can take advantage of the natural light.
And if you’re taking photos outside, try to avoid direct sunlight. The harsh light from the sun can create unflattering shadows on your subject’s face.
Instead, take photos in the shade or during golden hour, which is the hour before sunset.
The light during golden hour is warm and soft and will make your photos look more professional and amazing.
#33. Photography Tip 3: Use the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a photography technique that can help you take more interesting and visually appealing photos.
Imagine that your photo is divided into nine equal parts divided by two equally-spaced horizontal and two vertical lines.
Then, place your subject at one of the intersections of these lines.
For example, if you’re taking a photo of a person, you would place them at the left or right intersection.
If you’re taking a landscape photo, you’re to place the horizon at the top or bottom intersection.
Using the rule of thirds will help you make more balanced and visually appealing photos.
#34. Edit Your Photos
Editing your photos is an important part of taking great Instagram photos.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “good” photographer, a little bit of editing can go a long way in making your photos look more professional.
There are tons of different photo editing apps that you can use to edit your photos.
Our personal favourite is Lightroom, a paid app that you can download on your phone or computer.
Lightroom has plenty of editing tools that you can use to improve the quality of your photos.
For example, you can use the exposure tool to make your photos lighter or darker.
You can also use the white balance tool to change the colour of your photo.