Social media is a powerful, cost-effective tool that restaurants can use to showcase their food, atmosphere, reviews, and much more in real time. A strong social media presence builds trust with new and existing customers, increases brand awareness, and improves customer service.
Restaurant social media marketing is especially crucial in the digital age, since countless diners turn to popular online platforms like Instagram and TikTok when deciding where to eat. If you’re wondering how to promote your restaurant on social media, let’s get started.
Social media for restaurants
There are many platforms to choose from when creating your social media marketing strategy, and each offers a unique way to engage with customers. Instagram, in particular, has made an incredible impact on the restaurant industry. In fact, #food is one of the most popular Instagram hashtags in the world.
When it comes to dining out, the camera eats first: 69% of millennial diners take a photo of their meal before eating. Additionally, millennials dine out 20% more frequently than their predecessors, making the group a huge target market for restaurants. And as restaurants become more Instagrammable, 30% of millennial diners actively avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence — proving that high-quality food photography pays off.
Setting a social media marketing strategy
As with any marketing strategy, the first step is to define your goals. Are you trying to grow your following? Increase your engagement rate? Drive more pickup and delivery orders through social media?
Customer research will also help you decide which social media channels to focus on: Who is your target customer? Where do they spend time online? For example, recent studies show that 71% of millennials use Instagram as least once per week — so if you’re catering to this crowd, it would be wise to work on boosting your Instagram presence.
Lastly, make sure you know how you're going to track your social media analytics. While each platform has its own built-in analytics, you can also use a social media monitoring platform like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to aggregate all channels into one dashboard.
Getting started with restaurant social media marketing
Social media marketing can be a great way to get more diners in your door. Below, we’ve outlined four effective strategies for promoting your restaurant on social media.
1. Focus on boosting organic engagement
First things first, make sure all your social media profiles are up to date with your restaurant's operating hours, address, website, and links to your online ordering platforms — making it as easy as possible for prospects to do business with your brand.
From there, take the time to increase your interaction with followers. Regularly responding to customer comments will naturally boost engagement and make followers feel more invested in your brand. You can also create special promotional offers like giveaways or discounts to incentivize people to follow your account or tag a friend. Continue to experiment with different types of content (e.g., mouthwatering food photos, behind-the-scenes staff videos, and new menu item announcements) as you learn how to promote your restaurant on social media.
Finally, it’s important to keep your brand identity and best practices in mind. No matter what you’re posting, it should always be true to your brand. For example, if your restaurant has a sense of humor, you might incorporate that into your social media strategy through witty captions and a playful voice (à la Wendy’s). Remember: authenticity is key in social media!
2. Experiment across social channels
Social media for restaurants is a game of trial and error. Explore different social media channels to find out which works best for your business, and keep an open mind as you experiment. If you're just getting started, the three primary channels that restaurant managers should focus on are Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. And if you're interested, we also provide some tips for Snapchat.
Want to make creative Facebook posts for restaurants? Try using the Boomerang app to create fun GIFs (e.g., mini videos showing drizzling sauce or a sizzling dish). Facebook Live is another popular feature that enables restaurants to share content like a cooking class with a live audience. The Stories feature on Facebook also continues to grow in popularity, with over one billion stories posted every day — consider using it to promote daily specials and offer a peek into your everyday operations.
To stimulate more interest in your Facebook posts, you can also try using paid ads. Keep in mind that Facebook ads must be closely monitored to ensure you’re targeting the right audience. To understand whether your Facebook marketing strategy is working, you can use Facebook Audience Insights to analyze various performance metrics, including likes, views, and follows.
Instagram is naturally suited to restaurants because people love to photograph their meals and look at other people's food photos. As a restaurant owner, you can post photos that capture your delicious food, the atmosphere of your restaurant, or patrons and team members having fun. You can also take people behind the scenes by posting photos and videos that show the process of preparing various dishes.
When you share your amazing dishes with your Instagram followers, it helps potential customers get a taste of your restaurant. You can also share someone else’s post on your platform, either on your story or as an in-feed post (just make sure to get their permission beforehand by commenting directly on their post or sending a direct message).
To measure success on Instagram, closely monitor these key metrics:
Traffic: How many people viewed your posts
Engagement: How many people liked, commented, and shared your posts
Conversion: How many people actually clicked through to your website
What was once an app fueled by dance trends, TikTok has now also become a hub for food influencers and diners alike looking to showcase their next meal. From chefs to restaurant workers and food influencers, food enthusiasts from all over the world share engaging content and attract audiences to try their recipe or check out a new restaurant. And with over 1.53 billion users as of 2023, TikTok is a great place for restaurant owners to cater to both a global and local audience.
Your customers are already on TikTok — so your restaurant should be, too. A 2021 study found that 36% of TikTok users visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a TikTok video about that restaurant. What’s more, the hashtag #food garnered over 300 billion mentions on TikTok in 2022 alone. So, if you’re looking to grow your customer base and get your restaurant seen, TikTok is a great outlet.
TikTok is the home of viral trends — and as a restaurant owner, you can show off new and classic menu items, share interesting cocktails, introduce your staff, and much more. Although TikTok allows users to create videos that are up to ten minutes long, you should aim for shorter videos to maximize engagement. Consider using video editing tools like CapCut to combine multiple clips with transitions and other unique features to grab consumers attention.
Just like Instagram, TikTok is a great place to collaborate with foodies who already have an established following. You can invite influencers to enjoy a complimentary meal of their choosing, and encourage them to share it with their followers on TikTok. And considering TikTok’s global audience, you could reach people across the country, or even the world: one-fifth of users have visited a restaurant in a different city and 16% have traveled to a different state after seeing it in a TikTok video.
To measure success on TikTok, monitor the same metrics you would on Instagram.
Snapchat is a photo, video, and text sharing app favored by younger millennials and Generation Z, in which posts disappear after a few seconds. With 187 million users who send 9,000 posts per second, Snapchat is a great place to target customers among this demographic. Snapchat's location-based advertising feature is a particularly effective option for restaurants trying to tap into local markets. In addition to providing location targeting, foot traffic insights, and point radius targeting, Snapchat allows advertisers to create lookalike audiences based on past customer demographics.
On Snapchat, you can offer special perks for followers and encourage ‘snapping’ at the restaurant (e.g., encourage customers to post their experience on Snapchat, mention your restaurant, and tag the location).
To measure Snapchat success, track open rates (which show the percentage of your audience that engaged with your post) and screenshot rates. Since posts disappear after a few seconds, if someone screenshots your posts, you know they want to remember it for later. You can also track anonymized customer demographics.
3. Partner with food influencers
Restaurateurs know that word-of-mouth advertising is powerful, especially when that word comes from an influencer.
As people with a large, engaged social media following, influencers regularly promote different brands to their audience. Their word holds weight, since loyal followers respect their opinions and feel like they can relate to them in some way. When done right, influencer marketing can significantly increase your restaurant’s social media following and sales. In fact, 56% of consumers said that they purchased something after seeing an influencer promote it.
Curious about partnering with influencers to expand your customer base? Here are a few factors to consider when searching for the right influencer:
Audience. First, do they have enough followers? A good rule of thumb is to partner with influencers who have at least 10,000 followers to ensure your brand reaches many new people. Beyond numbers, who are their followers, exactly — and do they fall into your target audience? For example, if you’re a trendy café with a younger customer base, you might want to partner with a Gen Z influencer. Or, if your target audience is families, you might work with “momfluencers” who can get the word out.
Location. Second, since restaurants are focused on local marketing, look for an influencer in your geographic area. The top cake influencer on social media may live in California — but if your bakery is based in New York, it’s probably more practical to partner with a local who can bring in lots of new business.
Genre. Finally, work with influencers in a genre that aligns with your restaurant's offerings. For example, a dessert blogger could be an excellent candidate for bringing new sweets-loving customers into your bakery — and an Instagram page dedicated to coffee is the perfect place to promote a new café.
4. Focus on the four c's: creativity, consistency, connection, and customers
When promoting your restaurant on social media, remember the four c's: creativity, consistency, connectivity, and customers:
Creativity. Be creative and original in your social media posts to stand out from competitors.
Consistency. Once someone likes your post or follows you on social media, give them a reason to stay by consistently sharing photos, updates, and promotions. Be sure to maintain your brand voice, tone, and image across all social channels as well.
Connection. Along with reaching out to potential customers and regulars, connect with and engage other businesses in your neighborhood, food writers at local or national publications, and influencers within your niche.
Customers. Finally, it's crucial that you know your customer base inside and out — this way, you can create targeted social media campaigns and promos. Many social media platforms offer very detailed analytics of follower demographics, and the more advanced advertising features allow you to target very specific audiences.
Social media for restaurants: a key ingredient to success
Restaurants with successful social media marketing strategies have a huge advantage over those that don’t — and at the end of the day, promoting your restaurant on social media can convert prospects into loyal customers who keep coming back to your business.