Successfully using Instagram as a restaurant is about highlighting your unique menu, engaging with your audience, and increasing traffic to your restaurant. Instagram is a unique platform that lets you display your culinary chops, while also bringing in new customers. I’ve done research on how to use Instagram best for restaurant businesses.
How to use Instagram for restaurant businesses? Using Instagram as a restaurant is about posting engaging photos of your food and glimpses behind-the-scenes, using in-platform features like hashtags and geo-tagging to increase your reach and visibility, and utilizing ads and ordering features to increase your revenue directly from the Instagram platform.
To use Instagram as a restaurant successfully, you should:
- Post good quality, engaging images and videos of your menu items with consistency
- Post often to your stories and your feed
- Geo-tag your restaurant location in your photos
- Always include a link to your website in your Instagram bio
- Host contests and giveaways to increase foot traffic
- Use hashtags to optimize for Instagram search features and spread awareness of your restaurant
- Utilize Instagram ads to reach a broader audience
- Install the “start order” feature so followers can order food directly from Instagram
These steps will help you attract business and spread the word about your take on cuisine. In this article, I will walk you through each of these steps.
Instagram Posting Basics for Restaurants
How often to post
Posting frequency is an important aspect of every social media site. While there are general “best times” to post on Instagram, you’ll want to study your own posts and analytics to find the times and days that work best for your restaurant.
It will take some trial and error – take a week or two to test out different posting times, then look for what posts have the highest engagement rates or the most impressions and continue posting during those times.
To start out, try posting close to meal times. If someone comes across your post when they happen to be hungry, it will drive them to click on your profile to see if they can order directly from your Instagram page (more on this later).
In terms of how often to post, you should be posting to your story on a daily basis. Try highlighting behind-the-scenes moments in preparation of busy times, or tease sneak-peeks at new menu items.
When posting to your feed, stick to one to two posts a day at strategic times. This will help you stay top of mind, and ensure that you aren’t annoying your potential customers with too many posts.
If you’re just starting out, take a look at your competitor’s Instagram accounts as well to see when/what they’re posting and which ones get the most engagement. If you know something works, it will give you a good framework to get started.
A word of advice: the Instagram algorithm shows users posts from accounts they engage with first. This means that if someone follows you, but never likes your photos or watches your stories, your post will show up further down in their feed.
Keep an eye on your post engagement rates, and use your data to find what types of posts your followers engage with best.
What to post
Instagram is the holy grail for those in the food service industry. Post mouth-watering images and videos of different menu items and cocktails.
Get creative with it, too! Make use of some of Instagram’s features like boomerangs to increase your engagement. Take a boomerang of your chef topping off a delicious plate of pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. What’s better than making it look like it’s raining parmesan!?
If your restaurant is particular about its ambiance and design, don’t be afraid to highlight your space, as well. Good food is important but letting your customers know what kind of atmosphere they’ll walk into is important, too.
Where to Post
Instagram has two posting options: stories, or the feed. Instagram stories are best for quick updates, behind-the-scenes content, and sneak-peeks, whereas the feed is your place to highlight your delicious-looking dishes.
It’s best to post to your Instagram stories every day, and frequently. Stories offer you features that regular posts in the feed do not, like filters, being able to add text or music, and polls, which help increase your engagement.
Polls and questions in Instagram stories are also a great way to get diner feedback. If you’re thinking about adding new menu items or adding events to your restaurant’s calendar, ask your followers which they’d prefer!
You can create a poll with two options you’re considering and see which one your followers would prefer, or you can ask an open-ended question to allow your followers a little more creativity in their suggestions. It’s an easy way to increase engagement, and get your Instagram followers excited about new menu items.
Spreading the Word and Increasing Your Restaurant Following
One of the most important things you can do for your restaurant on Instagram is increase your reach and awareness.
Organically, you can do this a couple of ways:
Contests via social media
Contests are a great way to reach new customers and drive traffic to your physical restaurant location. They also help you highlight honest reactions from your customers about your food and your space.
Ask your followers and customers to post a picture of their favorite fish on your menu with a branded hashtag in order to win a gift card. It takes minimal effort on your part, and your customers will love the chance to win a free dinner!
You can even start a contest to name a new cocktail or pick the new menu item. Using the question feature on Instagram stories, as your followers to submit their answers, and give the winner a free dinner or gift card.
A branded social media contest also helps you tie your physical restaurant location to your social media profiles. A contest is a great way to show your customers you care about their opinions, and also help promote yourself in the process.
Hashtags are searchable on Instagram, so having a branded one for your restaurant, or for a specific contest or campaign, is an easy way for you to reach new followers. Ask your followers to use a certain hashtag whenever they post about your restaurant and their experiences there.
You’ll also want to think of hashtags on Instagram as your search keywords. Use your hashtags to describe the images you’re posting, so you’ll also appear in the search function for those who are searching for more general terms like “sandwich” or “cheese.”
Users can also search by location on Instagram, so make sure your restaurant location is up-to-date on your Facebook business page.
Location tagging is an easy way for users to “check-in” with their own followers. Location tagging is lower-effort for your customers since it doesn’t require them to include it in the post text like a hashtag.
If another user then clicks on the location, they’ll also see all the other posts that have been tagged with it. It’s a quick way for your potential customers to get a general overview of what to expect at your restaurant.
Implementing following incentives in-restaurant will help increase your following as a restaurant on Instagram.
Offer a discount for customers who follow your page when paying their bill. Have your servers let them know that you post contests and updates on your Instagram account so they know they should continue to follow you.
The food industry in every city is saturated with food bloggers, and influencers are an easy way to help promote your restaurant.
Invite the local food bloggers to review your restaurant. They’re normally experts at taking photos of their food, and an organic endorsement from a local “foodie” goes a long way.
Ask them to post their review on Instagram and tag your location. This will introduce you to their engaged audience, and make use of their sizeable follower count to increase awareness of your restaurant.
Generating Revenue from Instagram
In an ideal world, organic social posts would be enough to increase your revenue. At the end of the day, however, organic social media isn’t always enough. Most businesses on Facebook and Instagram make use of ads in order to increase their revenue potential.
Here are a few paid ways to drive revenue from your restaurant’s Instagram profile:
Using Instagram ads doesn’t mean you need a big budget, and there are a bunch of different ad objectives you can choose from, such as driving website traffic, increasing awareness, driving reach, and much more. Even $10 a day can help.
For your restaurant profile on Instagram, the objective you’ll most likely choose is either reach, brand awareness, followers, or traffic.
The reach objective helps you maximize the number of people who see your ads on Instagram. This is a great objective if you’re trying to get your profile and name in front of a new audience.
The brand awareness objective, on the other hand, optimizes your ad placements by putting them in front of people who are most likely to remember them.
The traffic objective for Instagram ads is optimized to drive traffic to the link you provide. If you haven’t added a “start order” button to your restaurant Instagram profile yet, you could run an ad directing your traffic to a “start order” page on your site.
Finally, there’s also an engagement objective. As mentioned before, the Instagram algorithm favors posts with a lot of engagement, so if you find you need a little help reaching the threshold to appear top-of-feed, this can be a little added boost.
Instagram Action Buttons
Most importantly, Instagram business profiles can now include “action” buttons. You can add a “start order” button to your Instagram profile, so users don’t even have to leave Instagram to place an order at your restaurant.
Instagram’s action buttons integrate with a number of food-ordering services, such as ChowNow, EatStreet, GrubHub, and OpenTable. Your business has to have an existing account on one of these sites in order to be able to integrate with Instagram’s action buttons.
When posting on Instagram, highlight the addition of your “start order” button by mentioning it in the caption of your posts. Instagram doesn’t allow links in your posts, but you are allowed links in your bio section, so you should direct your followers there for when they want to place an order.
Engaging With Your Restaurant Community Through Instagram
Using hashtags In-Restaurant
Create physical signage for your restaurant with your social media profiles listed and any branded hashtags you want your customers to use when posting to Instagram about your restaurant.
This helps to tie your physical restaurant to your Instagram business profile and encourages diners to post about their experiences at your restaurant.
Encourage Customer Photos
Encouraging customer photos helps alleviate the burden of having to create new content all the time. Curating content from your visitors is a great way to get your diners to post about their experience, especially if there’s a chance you might feature them or their content in some way.
It doesn’t even have to be related to contest or promotion – getting your customers to post on Instagram provides you with insight and feedback about certain menu items, the service, and the atmosphere of your restaurant.
- Do I have to have a Facebook business profile in order to set up a business Instagram account for my restaurant?
- Yes. For the purpose of running ads and location tagging, you have to have a Facebook business profile associated with your Instagram account.
- What tools can I use to analyze my Instagram posts?
- If you set up an Instagram business profile for your restaurant, you’ll get access to insights, which will allow you to see weekly interactions, reach, impressions, engagement rates, and demographic knowledge about your audience.