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Restaurant Marketing, Customer Acquisition, Automation

9 Awesome Ways For Restaurants To Rock Instagram

It may be only six years old but Instagram has taken the world by storm. The photo-sharing app boasts a global community of over 500 million, who capture and share the world’s moments on the service.

With its seamless integration with Facebook, Instagram is a perfect marketing tool for restaurants. Especially since food is all about imagery!

The Facebook-Instagram link is truly a two-birds-with-one-stone marketing opportunity. It helps you cast the largest net possible through a single post.

Social network maintenance for businesses take a lot of time and effort. This epic tie-up will help you save loads of time as you’ll be able to post simultaneously on both platforms with just a click of a button.

As a restaurant, how do you make the best out of your Instagram account? Here are nine awesome ways to use Instagram to make your restaurant stand out!

1) Using #hashtags to your advantage


Hashtags can be rather tricky to get right. Try experimenting to get a perfect mix of hashtags. The usual suspects for restaurants would be classics such as #foodie, #instafood, #yummy and #foodaddict but you could also be creative and come up with something rather snazzy that is centred around your restaurant.

Keep an eye out on what’s trending in the hashtag world. For example, if it happens to be #cheesecakeday, and your menu includes cheesecake, post a mouth-watering photo of that dish.

Also, remember that when you post is supercritical with Instagram. If you’re after the lunch crowd, post around 11am, when people start thinking about what to have for lunch.

Add specific location in your tags to lure foot traffic – Instagram is a mobile App so future customers may be just outside your door!

2) User-generated content on Instagram

User-generated content on Instagram

There are so many fun, quirky and creative ways to do this. Remember, user-generated content is Instagram gold, but it’s gotta be fun and not just a marketing ploy. If you get caught out and people know that it’s only for PR/marketing, it won’t take and may even backfire.

Think of a good way to entice people to take photos of your food and upload them on Instagram (but don’t expect something for nothing – a little token such as a free appetiser or drink goes a long way to encouraging people to promote your brand).

For example, put up a photo of a new dish that has just been added to your restaurant’s menu and ask your Instagram followers to “name the dish.” You might get some great ideas for the name of your new dish as well as a lot of positive attention!

3) Interactive menu

Interactive menu

This is a popular event that may take some work for the chef but always has a lot of takers. Crowdsource a picture menu on Instagram (i.e. the menu has to be created by guests) after allowing your patrons to create a dish on condition that they upload photos with a hashtag with your restaurant name.

This doesn’t mean your chef will be up to his neck in dozens and dozens of off-menu orders – you could control the situation by allowing your patrons to mix two existing dishes (like scrambled eggs and fried rice, or pizza and chicken wings) or creating their own pizzas.

Not only does this idea encourage engagement, but it may also give you some useful product  ideas for future guests.

4) Use menus or placemats to provide interesting photo opportunities

Use menus or placemats to provide interesting photo opportunities

Not many people can resist a good opportunity to have a fun photo. Try introducing a specials menu which doubles as a mask (like a funny moustache or bunny ears). Guests could hold up the menu (which would, of course, have a very visible logo of your restaurant) to their face and take a fun photo.

Encourage your patrons (with perhaps a free drink) to put the picture on Instagram with a funny, quirky hashtag designated by you. The hashtag would be an opportunity for you to sneak your restaurant’s name in. Also it allow patrons to easily search for others who uploaded photos.

5) Behind-the-scenes looks

Behind-the-scenes looks

This is a very good marketing tactic. It helps create a personal bond between your restaurant and your guests. By seeing your “vulnerable” and “real” sides, it will help build a love and trust for your brand.

Restaurant guests always wonder about what goes on in the kitchen, so it’s a great way to show them where the magic happens. It’s also a good opportunity to flaunt your chef and give “sneak previews” of new menu ideas.

For example, California Pizza Kitchen uses this method by posting exclusive photos on Instagram that reveal new menu items to loyal fans and followers.

6) Oldie but goodie – Special of the day pic

Oldie but goodie - Special of the day pic

Special-of-the-day pics are oldies but goodies – they never fail. And what better platform than Instagram to put up a mouth-watering photo of your special of the day, just ahead of meal times!

If you want to give your customers and loyal followers a bit of an reward, insert a coupon code with your specials picture. This will have an added bonus of allowing you to measure the efficacy of your social media efforts. Hashtags are key, so remember to add a fun, enticing hashtag.

7) Influencers – A good word from a food blogger may go a long way

Influencers - A good word from a food blogger may go a long way

Influencers are people who can reach consumers via their blogs and social networks. They don’t necessarily have to be celebrities (as these would probably blow the marketing budgets of most restaurants with one teeny Instagram post).

Most influencers are just people who have the power to reach your core demographic and influence them in a much more efficient and effective manner than your brand can.

Find a food blogger to do a review on your restaurant by offering a free meal (though this may not always yield positive results). If you’re very risk averse, it might be worth considering paying them to post a photo on Instagram for some guaranteed positive publicity.

8) Instagram isn’t only about photos – Don’t forget videos!

Instagram isn’t only about photos - Don’t forget videos!
So many people are using Instagram to upload videos directly into an update or in a tab. Restaurant goers and food enthusiasts always love videos about how food is made, so consider including a short video of how a signature dish is made.

You don’t have to give away much to get people engaged. Keep your secret sauces a secret (no one will resent you for it) but give enough away for people to find it useful to attempt trying their own versions at home.

9) Contests, contests, contests

Photo contests are THE motivator to get your current and potential customers to engage with you and your restaurant. And the best thing about photo contests is that you don’t have to rack your brain, thinking of an awesome idea. It’s up to the contestants to come up with creative results to ultimately make your brand shine.

If you have take-away cups for your coffees, get your patrons to upload fun photos and post them on Instagram with a niche hashtag like #contest(yourcafename). Make the contest fun and light but also remember to offer a reward to the winner. A free cup of coffee can be a super motivator for many!


Digital marketing strategist and co-founder of Chatobook. He consults client in digital marketing and business strategies. A poker expert if he can maintain his poker face.

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