Instagram for Restaurants: Maximize Your Success
At well over 140 million active users in the US and rolling out new features on the reg (business analytics, Instagram Stories, live video, and Start Order), Instagram’s audience eclipses that of Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest. If you’ve been at a restaurant, event, or simply stepped foot outside recently, you’ve probably noticed the hunched posture and tell-tale scrolling motion of an Instagram user. I certainly fit the bill. Why care? As a restaurateur, you know connecting with customers and keeping your restaurant top-of-mind is an important key to your success. Instagram allows you to put your best food forward, interact with your customers in an authentic way and reach new people.
So whether you’ve tapped into Instagram already or need some instruction to get started, here are some tips to help maximize your success on today’s most powerful social media platform.
Want more expert tips for social media success? Download our comprehensive ebook, “The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Restaurants.”
The Basics of Posting on Instagram for Restaurants
1. Always post your best images.
Your goal is to get a customer’s attention. If you are posting food, make sure the photo is appetizing. Your restaurant interior? Inviting. A photo of your staff? Make me want to work there. Avoid blurry images, images that are too close up, or ones you simply don’t love. For tips on taking better photos, here’s a handy guide.
2. Be consistent.
Your Instagram feed is a representation of your brand. When a potential customer is deciding whether or not to follow you or interact with your photos, they are going to base it off of looks. Establish a theme you can maintain, such as a general color scheme, editing technique, or photographic style. Make it even easier with the help of an app like Mosaico, which allow you to visually plan out upcoming posts.
3. Post often.
The more you post, the more likely people are to see your content, and therefore, your restaurant. As a rule of thumb, I aim for one post a day. You can always post more or less often than that, but avoid posting photos too close together (space out photos by at least 4 hours). It’s okay to test out posting more or less often to find your sweet spot.
Increasing Your Restaurant’s Instagram Following
1. Always use hashtags.
This is key for potential new customers to find your restaurant. To determine the best hashtags to use, think of keywords that describe your photo. For instance, if you’ve photographed a burger, search “burger” in Instagram’s hashtag section and use those results as starting point. For instance: when I search #burger, it gives me #bestburgers, which gives me related hashtags such as #burgertime and #burgerlove. Instagram caps you off at 30 hashtags, so maximize the effectiveness of the hashtags you use by choosing ones which relate to your location or cuisine type. You can include hashtags in your caption, or post them separately as a comment below your caption (this is visually cleaner).
2. Interact with people.
Remember, Instagram is a social tool for restaurants. It’s important to establish a relationship with your followers. I recommend responding to every comment you receive on your posts, and at the very least, “liking” the comment. Your customers will be incentivized to interact with you more, and that engagement increases the chance that your post stays closer the top of people’s feed, or makes the Popular Page of Instagram.2
3. Post at strategic times.
Having a business account on Instagram makes it easy to see what time of day your customers are seeing and interacting with your posts. Make a note to post during those times, and set reminders for yourself. Services like Planoly allow you to set up photos and times via your computer or phone, and will send you a push notification when your post should go up.
Taking Your Restaurant’s Insta-Game Up A Notch
1. Run Instagram Ads.
Instagram makes it easy by allowing you to target locals and set up an ad straight from your phone. Pick an appetizing food image, brainstorm a simple and eye-catching caption with your staff, and get ready to advertise!
2. Introduce contests or campaigns.
Take your brand to the next level by running promotions or campaigns that customers will want to interact with. We recommend giveaways, posts that encourage engagement (such as asking a question), or re-posting customer’s content with a shout-out to them. Check out the examples below for ideas.
3. Fit Instagram into your in-store strategy.
Include your Instagram handle on in-store receipts, takeout menus, or flyers. If you can get staff to spread the word, even better. I once had a server at the register tell me if I followed them on Instagram I’d get a 20% discount. I bought everything I was holding, and it’s now 4 years later and I still see and like their posts on a weekly basis. Don’t underestimate your employees!
4. Take online orders straight from Instagram.
If you work with the right online ordering provider, your customers can place to-go orders directly from Instagram. There are two ways your restaurant can take orders via your Instagram—through an “Order Food” button on your profile, as well as through special food ordering stickers in Instagram Stories. Your followers can even re-share your Stories with food ordering stickers to help create awareness and lend extra support on Instagram for restaurants.
Instagram ordering is one of the easiest ways to drive additional orders to your restaurant, and ChowNow restaurant partners can use it at no extra charge. Learn more about setting up Instagram ordering for your restaurant here.
Want more tips on Instagram for restaurants? Download The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Restaurants. Then, level up your online business by working with ChowNow.
In addition to free Instagram ordering, we offer solutions for growing your restaurant everywhere online. Our Order Better Network lets customers discover and order from your restaurant across an ever-growing variety of popular sites and apps, including Google, Snapchat, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and more. Speak with a ChowNow expert today to build a tailored business plan for your restaurant.
This post was last updated in January of 2022.