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  • Writer's pictureeileen strauss

15 Restaurant Instagram Marketing Strategies to Boost Business

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Instagram Restaurant Marketing
Instagram Restaurant Marketing

By the end of 2023, Instagram is projected to reach 127.2 million active users in the United States, up from 114.6 million users in 2020. For many, the social media platform is the first place they look to find out what your restaurant is all about, even before looking at your website. Whether searching for up-to-date hours, specials of the day, the online menu, or to get a sense of your restaurant’s vibe, consumers flock to this photo sharing site when making dining decisions.

According to research, the average daily usage of social media is 2 hours and 27 minutes with a rise in user numbers expected to grow 2023. By being active on Instagram, you’re meeting your target audience where they live.

More Stats to Consider:

  • 90% of Instagram users follow a business on the platform.

  • Young adults are the most active users of Instagram, with 71% of 18- to 29-year-olds using the platform.

  • 38% of US adults say they use Instagram several times a day.

Because Instagram is one of the most influential marketing tools in a restaurant’s toolbelt, creating a strategy to give your restaurant a strong Insta-presence should be at the top of your to-do list. By sharing photos and videos on a consistent basis, you can easily give props to your assets. Whether it’s an awesome riverside view, comfortable and cozy furnishings, or the most colorful cocktails in the city, Instagram gives consumers a window into what makes your business special.

But you can’t just post any photo or video and expect to see results. Your content needs to be high-quality, well-thought-out, and align with your overall marketing strategy.

When it comes to restaurant marketing on Instagram, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when getting started. Here are our top 15 restaurant Instagram marketing strategies.

Mouthwatering Photos
Mouthwatering Photos

1. Make Your Account Professional and Up-to-Date

To make sure your Instagram business account is up-to-date and professional, your address, phone number, delivery information, and online menu should all be accurate and current. This means regularly checking and revising your account whenever you make changes.

Your Instagram profile photo should be the logo that you use on all other marketing materials and your bio should be concise, keyword-optimized, and provide a quick overview of what your business is all about.

Include a call-to-action in your bio so that users know what you want them to do once they land on your page.

If you want people to place an order online, include a link to your website or online menu in your bio.

Vegan Tacquitos
Food Photography

2. Post-High-Quality Photos and Videos

In an increasingly visual world, Instagram stands out among other social networks as a simple but effective way to share photos and videos. From selfies to branded content. Instagram allows you to post square portraits, and landscape-oriented images and videos. On such a visual platform, high-quality, appropriately sized images are important and can help your feed stand out from the rest.

Mouthwatering food photography is essential if you want to stand out on Instagram so posting high-quality photos and videos is essential.

Equally important is editing your photos before posting them. There are plenty of great photo editing tools that you can use to make your photos pop, including Snapseed, Lightroom, VSCO, and Snapseed, just to name a few.

You can always hire a pro photographer, but it’s not necessary. Your marketing team can likely handle your restaurant’s Instagram account. Learning the flat-lay shot, which gives users a bird’s eye view of your food, can help boost appetites and encourage customers to order.

Instagram Size Requirements
Instagram Sizing

Instagram Size Requirements

Profile photo: 160 x 160 pixels with a minimum size at 110 x 110 pixels.

*Note: Instagram will crop your photo into a circle.

Posts: The ideal size for square posts on Instagram is 1080px by 1080px at a 1:1 aspect ratio. You can still upload smaller images but using the full resolution ensures every detail of your photo is captured.

Portrait images: Vertical images should be sized at 1080px by 1350px with a 4:5 aspect ratio.

Landscape images: For landscape posts, use an image that is 1080px by 566px, with an aspect ratio of 1.91:1.

Stories: 1080 x 1920 pixels (an aspect ratio of 9:16)

Make sure your posts are like-worthy with the best quality images through the Canva sizes guide and templates library.

Tell Your Story with Reels
Tell Your Story with Reels

3. Create Reels

To keep up with the video-based social platform, TikTok, Instagram introduced a feature called Reels, which has increased video capabilities on the platform.

Reels are currently reeling in the most user engagement, so it’s in your best interest to use it. Make video content just as you would for one of your restaurant’s TikTok videos, and feel free to post the same videos on both apps.

Restaurant Instagram Reel Ideas

  • Spotlight Your Menu - String together clips of the dishes on your current menu. You can showcase just your brunch menu, wine list, or dessert options, too. Or, show an entire dinner course from start to finish.

  • Walkthrough of Restaurant - Take your guests on a tour through your restaurant so they’ll know exactly what to expect when they arrive. Using a POV (Point-of-view) shot, start with a clip of the outside of your business, then, if you have a host or hostess, have them escort you to your seat. Follow this up with a scan of the menu, and the food at the table. This gives potential customers the ability to visualize the experience.

  • Recipe Video - If your restaurant has a rave-worthy dish, have your chef show users how to make it. Though they probably won't go to the trouble to make it themselves, they will see the care, precision, and expertise that goes into making the dish.

  • Special Events - Whenever your business is hosting an event, record small clips that you can put together later to create a reel.

Food Influencers Ice cream Cone
Food Influencers

4. Work With Influencers

Influencers are users that have a large following. Partnering with an IG influencer can help you reach their followers by posting about your restaurant.

Start by finding a local influencer that posts about eating at restaurants in your area on a consistent basis. Once you have found a person you'd like to work with, reach out to them. Ask if they have an exchange rate in place. Usually, the restaurant will provide a free dinner for them and a friend as well as further compensation for their time and transport, in exchange for a Reel, TikTok, Instagram post, and/or story about your restaurant.

Link in Bio
Link in Bio

5. Link Your Website in Your Bio

Once you have influenced potential customers to check out your restaurant through a post, Reel, or Story, you’ll want to make sure they can view your online takeout/ delivery menu or make a reservation. Give potential customers direct access to those features by adding your website to your bio.

Currently, you are still only able to link one URL in your bio. A way around this is by using a third-party social media tool like Linktree. This tool acts as a URL that allows you to house multiple URLs instead of just one. This one URL can house a direct link to your menu, reservation page, online ordering, or events calendar. No need to choose just one!

6. Build Community

Making and posting content isn’t the only task you need to keep up with on Instagram. If your content is engaging, then people will comment, and that’s a great thing. When people comment, you should comment back to foster a place where peoples' voices are heard. By fostering these relationships with commenters, you are creating a community within your profile.

We also recommend reposting on your Instagram Story. When a customer posts on their feed or Story about their experience at your restaurant, they can tag your account, which allows you to repost on your Story. Reposting their post shows your customers that you appreciate the shoutout.

Hashtags Instagram Posts
Add Hashtags & Create Your Own #

7. Put Hashtags to Work

To reach a wider audience with your Instagram posts, use hashtags to your advantage. When choosing hashtags for your restaurant, make sure they are relevant to your brand and popular within the food industry. In addition to using popular hashtags, create your own branded hashtag.

This is a great way to build community and get people talking about your restaurant on social media. Then ask customers to use that hashtag when posting photos of themselves enjoying a meal at your restaurant. You can then repost the best content.

Hashtag Best Practices

  • Use 8-15 hashtags per post.

  • Put the hashtags in a comment, not in the main caption.

  • Use hashtags with various volumes to capture a range of audiences. When you think of a hashtag to use, look it up on Instagram and see how many people have used it. Select from a range of high-volume (100,000+), medium-volume (50,000 - 100,000), and low-volume (0 - 50,000) hashtags to throw a large net. It’s tempting to only go for high-volume hashtags, but you are competing with hundreds of thousands of other people for the top spot, so do a range.

  • Use relevant-to-you hashtags that describe your business. For example, if you own an oyster bar, use hashtags like #oysterbar #oysterbar[your city here], #freshoysters, and #oysterrestaurant.

  • Do not keep using the same hashtags every time. Switch them up to reach a wider audience.

Get Sauce Delivery Instagram Post
Instagram Stories

8. Take Advantage of Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are a great way to share new menu items, daily specials, behind-the-scenes content, and exclusive offers to your followers.

You can also engage features like quizzes and polls to get your target audience talking about your restaurant. Like a “highlight reel” of your best stories, Instagram Stories Highlights is a great place to showcase your best content and make it easier to find. If you’ve recently added a new item to your online menu, for example, you can create a Highlight about it.

Then, when guests visit your profile, they can easily see that you have new items and can click to learn more. According to Statista, around 500 million people use Instagram Stories on a daily basis. So it’s a good idea to get started.

How to Create an Instagram Stories Highlight

  1. Go to your profile and tap “Edit Profile.”

  2. Scroll down and tap “Create new” under Highlights.

  3. Give your Highlight a name and select the Stories you want to add. Tap “Add” and your Highlight will be live on your profile.

incentivizing customers to post photos and tag your restaurant.
Incentivize customers to post photos and tag your restaurant

9. Optimize User-generated Content

Any content that’s created by people who are not affiliated with your brand, user-generated content is things like photos, videos, or reviews that mention your restaurant. A great way to build social proof, UGC shows potential customers that others are enjoying your food. Loyal customers who tag your restaurant in posts are essentially doing free marketing for you, so it’s important to show them some love.

High-quality visuals are essential for any business, but they can be expensive to produce. A great way to get around this is to use UGC to create visuals for your website and social media profiles.

All you need to do is find some great user-generated content that’s relevant to your business and then ask the creator for permission to use it.

If you don’t have any UGC yet, you can start by incentivizing customers to post photos and tag your restaurant. This could include anything from offering a 105 discount or a free dessert on their next visit.

Food Influencers
Food Influencers

10. Plug into the Power of Food Bloggers

Because they already have an engaged audience of foodies interested in trying new restaurants, food bloggers can be a great asset to your marketing efforts. Not only do they also have the ability to produce high-quality content, but they’re likely to have a wider audience and reach potential customers that you otherwise wouldn’t.

Getting a local blogger to write about your restaurant and post a photo can do wonders for business. The simplest tool for connecting with food bloggers is an introductory or cold pitch email. Make sure to introduce yourself and your restaurant and let them know why you think their audience would be a good fit for your business. If you have any offers or events coming up, mention them as well.

Before reaching out to food bloggers, it’s important to make sure that they’re the right fit for your restaurant. If a food blogger normally posts about the best fast food in town, they might not be the best fit for a fine dining establishment, nor would a blogger who regularly reviews high end spots be a good match if your business is a food truck or a fast-casual diner.

It’s also important to note that not all food bloggers will be interested in partnering with your restaurant either, so it’s important to reach out to multiple bloggers that will create content that is relevant and of high-quality. Read other blog posts and check for accuracy, typos, grammatical errors, or computer generated content that they’ve copy and pasted from an AI platform. Entice bloggers by offering them a free meal or generous discount in exchange for a review.

Tag a Friend
Tag a Friend

11. Create Contests and Giveaways

Your loyal customers can be your best marketing tools so finding reasons for them to share your IG Stories, Highlights, and posts is a great way to incentivize their engagement.

Running and organizing contests and giveaways through your posts is a great place to start. Contests that run for a few weeks at a time to generate excitement will ensure more customers get involved. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Tag Your Friend Contest: A ‘tag your friend ‘ contest entry requires participants to tag others to enter the contest and be eligible for the prize. Announce that the winner will receive an enticing offer like a free Mother’s Day brunch for a family of 4, a 50% discount on a Super Bowl catering order, or free desserts for a month. But as a part of the contest, participants must tag as many people as they can.

  • Best Photo: Organize a giveaway for participants who share the best photo of your food item and tag you on the post wins a prize.

  • Creative caption contest: The photo with the best creative caption wins!

  • Hashtag contest: The person with the most creative hashtag wins. Increase engagement by having your followers vote on the “best of.”

Food Holiday Photography
Food Holiday Photography

12. Use Food Holidays

If you’ve run out of content ideas, turn to a food holiday calendar for inspiration. There’s not a week in the year that doesn’t have food holidays. Thesy can range from obscure food holidays like Hamburger Day or major ones like Thanksgiving or Super Bowl Sunday. There’s likely plenty of food holidays that will tie in well with your restaurant’s theme or menu.

If your menu features the best guac in town, there’s a holiday for that—National Spicy Guacamole Day on November 14, 2023.

If you’ve just added a decadent pumpkin pie to your online menu, there’s a food holiday for that as well— National Pumpkin Pie Day on December 25, 2023. on October 14th. And if you have the best bagels in town, there’s a day for that too: January 15, 2024. Use food holidays on Instagram in the form of hashtags like #nationalspicyguacamoleday, #nationapumpkinpieday, or #nationalbagelday.

After you give these food holidays posts a few tries and see that you’re getting results, create a content calendar. Though dates for some of the bigger “food-centric” holidays like Easter Sunday, the Super Bowl, and Hanukkah change from year-to-year, the dates of the lesser-known food holidays generally stay the same.

13. Post Updated Menus

Your online menu is the most important aspect of your food delivery business, so to get more people interested in your restaurant’s offerings, make sure your menu is up-to-date on Instagram.

Post pictures of your dishes with detailed descriptions of what’s included and the prices. You can also use creative captions or videos to showcase the ingredients used in your recipes.

To make it easier for customers to order, add tags and links that will link users directly to your online menu.

All you need to do is add product tags and Shopping links to your posts, which will link the user directly to the item page on your website. From there, they can add it to their cart and checkout in just a few clicks.

This feature makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for and can help you increase sales.

14. Stay On Top of New Features

Stay on top of Instagram’s ever-evolving features. Not only will these tools help bring attention to your brand, but Instagram rewards profiles that use their features by making their profile more present in the algorithm and Explore page (a tab that helps users discover different profiles they don't already follow.)

Instagram Stickers
Instagram Stickers

15. Use Instagram’s Food Ordering Tools

In addition to being a brand-building platform, Instagram can also become the source to an entirely new revenue stream. Restaurants can share gift cards, food orders, and fundraiser stickers on their Instagram stories and profiles.

Make your menu one click away by using the Instagram Food Ordering tools. Customers can order via your Instagram business account in two ways—through an “Order Food'' button on your profile and through special food ordering stickers in Instagram Stories. Your followers can even re-share your Stories with the food ordering stickers to help create awareness and drive more commission-free orders back to your restaurant.

Your followers will be able to immediately order the dishes they see in your Instagram posts, directly translating your social media presence into delivery dollars. When you add a Food Orders sticker to your Instagram story, people can tap the sticker to order your business’s food from your partner’s website.

Instagram Posts
Instagram Posts

Adding a Food Orders Sticker to Your Instagram Story

  1. Select a photo or video to upload to your story.

  2. Select the “FOOD ORDERS” sticker.

  3. Add a partner, like Sauce, for your business’s food orders. If you haven’t already set up food orders with a partner, follow the instructions on the partner’s site.

  4. Add the partner link for the food orders service you selected.

  5. After you’ve entered the website, tap Done.

  6. Move the Food Orders sticker to where you would like it to appear in your story. You can also tap the sticker to change its color.

  7. Share your story.

By Eileen Strauss


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