We asked an expert social media agency to give us their top tips for restaurants using Instagram over the coming year.
Seven ways restaurants can use Instagram in 2021
Instagram is a hugely influential social network in the food, drink and hospitality space. Whilst businesses in some sectors struggle to come up with ideas for content, restaurants should have no shortage of great images to share on the platform. Popular across all corners of society, most restaurants can benefit from an active and thriving Instagram account. Here's how to make the most of it
1. Take better photos of your food
A good proportion of your content on Instagram will be photographs of the dishes you serve. It can be tricky to convey food well, so on-plate presentation and how it's situated within your venue is crucial. It's easy to make tasty food look totally unappealing without the right framing and lighting and vice-versa.
Hire a professional food photographer for a day or research how to improve your own skills in order to give your content a boost. Invite the pro in during a new menu tasting day and have them create a bank of wonderful photos you can schedule in advance.
Check out our article by award winning photographers Eat & Breathe giving advice on how to take your own top food photos.
2. Use the close friends feature
The "close friends" feature isn't widely used by brands on Instagram, but it can be a powerful tool. By adding your core followers or most loyal customers to a special close friends group, you're able to share content exclusively with them. When you post an Instagram story to your close friends list, your profile picture will be illuminated with a green ring. Members of the list will know they're in that VIP group.
This can create an air of exclusivity around your brand and this group is likely to include the most active people on your profile. Treat that group well. Share exclusive behind-the-scenes content or chef interviews, ask them to vote on certain menu items or suggest new cocktail flavours and tell them about events or offers before anyone else.
Select "close friends" from your Instagram menu and start adding your regulars.
3. User-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) has long been a cornerstone of social media content. It's a great sign if your customers are sharing your food, drinks or dishes on their personal Instagram profiles and doing the marketing for you!
Sharing other people's content on your feed or as Instagram stories will encourage others to post about you. Encourage the pictures by training your team members to ask diners if they want them to take a photo. They could point to a smartphone on the table and ask; many customers will say yes.
Set a schedule for when you will share user-generated content. Perhaps every day you re-post all images you're tagged in on your Instagram story. Perhaps every Sunday you share the weekend's best customer image on your feed. Make it a feature and have customers vying to be included.
4. Leveraging influencers
Local foodies could be a source of a customer influx in 2021. Food bloggers and Instagrammers will have been short of content in 2020 so will be raring to get back out to their favourite haunts and discover new places. If you've never tried any influencer marketing, 2021 might be time to give it a go.
You don't need to find an Instagrammer with a million followers to post about your restaurant and it would likely be expensive if you had to pay them for doing so. Micro-influencers nearby might only have a few thousand followers, but they'll be loyal, local and probably very much into dining out. You may find that these influencers will post about your restaurant in exchange for a free meal or two which could be well worth it.
The right people talking about your venue can work wonders. Establish who you want to work with and what you want them to do, and start the approach.
5. Create an Instagrammable location
A beautiful setting will invite social media content all by itself, without any need for coercing.
If your venue can accommodate it, we recommend having at least one area that looks awesome on camera. It could be a feature wall, some lighting or interesting signage. People are always looking for something a bit novel that makes their meal out look extra special. It's amazing what a simple bit of neon lighting or retro décor will do for your own content and that of the people who share their experience.
Flower walls, bright colours, unusual features or funky chairs can all entice customers to take their pictures whilst dining in. See your venue through a customer's eyes to make the most of it.
6. Build your mailing list
Let's get down to serious business! Your email list should be a great source of bookings and orders. An engaged audience should be biting your hand off to book a table or order a limited stock item. Instagram is the perfect tool to build your list.
Use your Instagram bio link to direct someone to subscribe, and communicate the benefit of doing so regularly. Use LinkInBio or Linktree to include different options for booking, viewing a menu or subscribing. Display your subscribe form somewhere visible on your website and be clear about why someone might join. Incorporate automation using tools like Zapier, so your list grows as people book a table or join your Wi-Fi.
Some of the best restaurants around are fully booked whenever they email their list. Data capture is paramount and can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Treat your mailing list subscribers like the important customers they are and ensure they are pleased they're on your list.
7. Build your community
Social media is all about building a loyal and active community, and Instagram is no different. Interact with accounts that share content relevant to you, such as your location or cuisine. Like and engage with their content, or leave a comment. Follow relevant local influencers and businesses and start having friendly communication on a weekly basis. You'll broaden your network but also strengthen the relationships you have with existing members, making them far more likely to pop in, recommend you and share your message.
Schedule time for your interaction each week. Perhaps you engage with your home feed after running payroll, or respond to comments along with the stock take. Making Instagram as important as menu planning or cleaning will ensure your profile grows and brings the benefits of doing so with it.
For the uninitiated, Instagram might seem intimidating. For some, it seems like a lot of hard work. However, if you can crack it, Instagram is incredibly powerful for local businesses, especially restaurants. Give these seven tips a try and let us know how you get on.
JC Social Media is a specialist social media agency, running weekly webinars to help businesses thrive online. Find the webinars here.