8 Steps to Master Instagram Restaurant Marketing Like a Pro


As any marketer will tell you, people buy stories, not products. It’s no different for restaurants. Every restaurant needs a great story, and as a restaurant owner, you need to be able to tell yours well.

Instagram is the perfect platform to do this. Along with being able to share awesome images of your restaurant’s amazing food, Instagram lets you build a community, foster engagement, and tell your brand story.

We’ll show you eight surefire ways to master Instagram marketing for your restaurant. All you need to do is get ready for those extra bookings.

1. Make your restaurant’s Instagram about your people

Instagram is ideal for humanizing your restaurant brand. Food photos are great, but people really want to connect with your brand, so humanize your restaurant by sharing real photos and videos of the real-life people that work in your restaurant.

From the head chef to the waitstaff, encourage your employees to post about your restaurant too, sharing their experiences or favorite menu choices. Sharing the real people behind your restaurant, their stories and their passions highlight what makes you unique, increasing that all-important engagement with your brand.

Pro tip: Use Instagram Live to share interviews and videos with members of your team. Ask them questions or ask your team to do an account takeover for the day. Shake Shack is a great example of this.

2. Find your perfect food blogger

Eye-catching, Grammable photos of food combined with social media interaction is a magic marketing mix. Partnering with a successful influencer or blogger is a good way to boost your Instagram presence. In return for a free meal for the blogger, you’ll get exposure and some awesome photos of your food.

To make a partnership work for your restaurant, reach out to foodie accounts that have followers in the 20-50k bracket. These bloggers love sharing food experiences, have an engaged follower base, but won’t charge excessively for working with you, so it’s the sweet spot for a new restaurant.

Pro tip: Keep it local. Look for local bloggers by running a Google or hashtag search. You can also get ahead by searching your competition’s Instagrams for any tagged posts written by food bloggers.

3. Use the power of Instagram video

Get behind video on Instagram and you’ll soon thank us for the increase in restaurant bookings. You can share videos two different ways on Instagram: Instagram Stories and Instagram Live.

With stories, share some quick highlight clips of your restaurant, for example, behind the scenes of a busy food service like Pizza Pilgrims, or post some footage of great ambience one night.

With Instagram Live, you can go into a bit more detail to support your brand values. Take your followers on a live restaurant tour or share the provenance of ingredients on a new menu addition. Video is instantly engaging, so it’s a great way to share the real life behind your brand, as well as your unique values.

Pro tip: Boost your video reach by creating videos that stand out and match your brand creatively with editing apps.

4. Engage, engage, engage

We know you know, but we’ll say it again anyway as it’s so important. People want to engage with real people, so make genuine interaction with your followers your focus.

Re-gram their content, reply to comments quickly and take the time to ask for and genuinely listen to any feedback about your restaurant. Have real humans reply.

Engagement creates loyal customers and loyal customers will make your restaurant a success. They’ll be more likely to share their great experiences, tag their friends and post photos of your food, all contributing to the positive social proof you need to get those all important customers into your restaurant.

Pro tip: Learn from Instagram engagement masters Dominos. Engage with your customers by sharing their images and creating a conversation around your food.

5. Use the right hashtags for your restaurant

Using the right hashtags will power-up your Instagram posts by helping your restaurant become more visible. Posts with a hashtag get over 12% more engagement than posts without, so it’s definitely worth investing in some time to get the hashtags right. There are millions of food related hashtags on Instagram, so start by adding a location to help you stand out, for example #londonfoodie rather than #foodie.

Tools like Hashtagify will give you popular related hashtags, so you can create a hashtag strategy for Instagram and see what works. It’s a fine line between spamming posts with hashtags though, so make sure to only use ones that are genuinely relevant and useful to your restaurant brand.

Pro tip: Put hashtags in the first comment after your post. This reduces the risk of you looking solely like a pushy advert for your restaurant.

6. Hold an Instagram contest

Contests are a great way to use the power of Instagram to build your brand and follower engagement. To make them as successful as possible, think carefully about your goal: is it more followers, better engagement or more restaurant bookings?

Use your goal to create your contest, as well as the winning prizes on offer. Ideas include:

  • Selfie contests (a great way to generate creative images of your brand)
  • Trivia questions
  • Food photo sharing with specific hashtags
  • Asking them to tag a friend

You can even go all out and ask your followers to come up with something really creative for your brand, like a new dish or a new menu design.

Pro tip: It’s best to keep your competition short and sweet to generate real interest and engagement. Run it for too long and your followers will get bored. OpenTable’s weekly #DishPics $25 contest is a great example of how to do contests well.

7. Go local with your community

Users like to search Instagram to find local restaurants that have been talked about (it’s that social proof phenomenon again). People also use Instagram’s Explore tool to find a great new place to eat.

Add a geolocation tag to your posts, add your location to hashtags and engage with your local restaurant and foodie community on Instagram. Becoming a part of a local community, as well as making it easy for potential customers to find you, will pay off.

You can also harness community power by using crowdsourced images of your food and restaurant taken by visitors to your restaurant. It’s a win-win, your followers will love the kudos while you’ll increase that all important engagement.

Pro tip: Add a geolocation tag to every post you make. This will allow other people, not just your followers to find you when they’re using Instagram to find their next restaurant. This will also boost your SEO results.

8. Add a link in Instagram Stories

As well as using IG Stories for brand boosting video content, you can also use them to share links. Instagram Stories, unlike Instagram posts, let you share specific links with your followers, so you no longer have to choose only one URL to share in your bio.

This is great news for your restaurant, as you can now share a link to your new menu, a great new review or share a call to action for customers to book a table. Use these links in combination with creative, stand-out content and you’re onto an engagement winner. Take a look at CaliforniaDonuts for some great Stories ideas.

Pro tip: Use links in Instagram Stories to engage with your followers. Share a link to a your new menu or create a poll to ask your followers what dish they’re looking forward to trying. You can also pin your favourite stories at the top of your Instagram, keeping those CTA links highlighted.

Want some extra tips too?

Instagram is such a great way to market your restaurant we couldn’t leave you with just 8 tips. So here are some bonus tips which will give your restaurant’s marketing on Instagram some extra spice.

  • Make sure you have your website link in your Instagram bio. Sounds simple, but this is an easy way to optimize your booking, reservation or delivery services. Making it easy for your customers is the easiest way for you to boost your marketing reach.
  • Utilise Instagram Apps like Resy or the ‘Book now’ button to push your bookings. (again, make it easy!).
  • Instagram Highlights is also a great engagement-creating tool for your restaurant. Use Highlights to share memorable moments in your restaurant, award winning dishes or any new menu item you’re particularly proud of. Use vibrant images and fresh content and you’ll be good to go.

Wrap Up

Marketing your restaurant isn’t just about having great food. You need to share your values and the story of your restaurant too, developing a loyal and engaged customer base that loves to interact with you.

Instagram is the perfect platform for this, letting you share the real people behind your brand as well as sharing fantastic food images and creative marketing campaigns. Investing in your Instagram output will supercharge your restaurant’s visibility, reputation, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Check out our complete guide to local marketing for more local marketing strategies.

About the Author:

Hannah Hambleton is the Content Manager for Beambox.com and writes about marketing and social media trends in the hospitality industry.


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