Instagram is a dynamic social network that has quickly outgrown its initial photo-centric design to become a leader in the social field. What started as a “social” network has quickly adapted to make space for businesses of all shapes and sizes, including restaurants. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of Instagram for restaurants, starting with why it works so well.

Why Your Restaurant Needs an Instagram Strategy

In our series on using social media for restaurants, we’ve covered how to use Facebook and Pinterest in your restaurant marketing strategy.

Today, we’re going over another exciting social network for your restaurant: Instagram!

Instagram is more than just a network where you can watch cute puppy videos and follow the goings-on of the Kardashians.

Consider some important statistics that give us an idea of just how big of an impact this network can have on your restaurant…

  • There are over 1 billion users on Instagram.
  • On average, users spend 30 minutes per day on the network.
  • 81% of people use Instagram to research products and services — including restaurants.

These statistics show, not only the size of the network but also the potential it has for businesses like local restaurants

The primarily visual nature of Instagram makes it a great place to showcase your delectable food, the ambiance of your dining room, and so much more.

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Now let’s get into some specifics of how to navigate Instagram for restaurants who want to promote their business and connect with their customers.

How to Excel at Instagram for Restaurants

1. Choose Only Your Best Images

Since Instagram is a particularly visual network, you need to put your best foot forward in your photography.

Good pictures capture your customers’ attention. And once their attention is captured, it is more likely that they will act on it!

Your images might include…

  • Inviting table settings
  • Warm dining room
  • Mouthwatering dishes and desserts
  • Happy staff

Step back from your image for a moment and look at it as a customer. Does the food look appetizing? Does your restaurant look inviting? If they don’t, then it’s better to wait for a better shot than to post something that might turn your customers away.

2. Post Regularly

Keep your restaurant top of mind with your followers by posting regular updates.

And when it comes to what to post, you have many different options. Here are a few posts you could add to your strategy…

  • Delicious food pics (of course)
  • New menu items
  • Your hardworking staff
  • Behind the scenes
  • Reposts from your customers / User-generated content

In the end, just be creative. When it comes to Instagram posts, there are endless possibilities.

If you find it difficult to keep up with daily posting, use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your posts in advance. There are many different social scheduling tools at a variety of price points for any budget.

3. Get Your Timing Right

There are certain times of day and days of the week when people are most engaged on Instagram.

As a general rule, studies show that people use Instagram from 11 am to 12 pm during the week — which makes sense, since many will check it on their lunch break.

But, remember, every audience is different.

Play around with your own post timing. Instagram analytics will let you know how each post performs and what times and days are best for your particular audience. You might notice that your audience is much more engaged at a certain time as opposed to another, so adapt your posting strategy to follow suit.

4. Use #Hashtags

Hashtags are keywords or phrases that describe your photo or business and begin with a pound (#) sign. For instance, #italianrestaurant or #rameninboston.

Hashtags are important because they help new customers to discover your business. Some people will use Instagram’s search feature to look up specific hashtags. Others will follow certain hashtags on the network, meaning your post could show up right in their feed.

How do you choose the right hashtags? Think about keywords that would describe your restaurant, cuisine, or local area. Create a running list that you can use in each post. Over time, you’ll find out which hashtags work and which ones don’t.

5. Encourage Customers to Follow You

As mentioned above, many Instagram users enjoy following their favorite businesses on the network.

And that includes you.

Let your customers know that they can follow you on Instagram. Include your Instagram handle on receipts, flyers, and takeout menus. You can also create buzz around your Instagram presence by offering a discount to those who follow you.

6. Run Contests

Contests can help your Instagram strategy in various ways. It can attract new followers to your account, generate leads, and increase engagement.

But what kind of contests can you run as a restaurant to reach these goals?

  • The couple with the most romantic story wins a free dinner for two.
  • The user with the best caption for your photo wins a discount.
  • Those who like your photo and tag a certain number of friends will be entered into a drawing for a special prize.

Look for ways to incorporate contests into your restaurant’s strategy a few times a year.

7. Use Video

As great as images are for your social media strategy, videos really take the cake. In fact, videos on Instagram create 49% more engagement than static images.

But sadly, many shy away from using video in their strategy. They might think it’s too complicated or might fear being in the video themselves.

The truth is, though, it doesn’t have to be complicated. And you don’t have to be any of the videos if you don’t want to.

Does your restaurant have a signature dish? Video your chef preparing it, perhaps explaining it at the same time. Do you prepare a fancy dessert? Video your staff plating it.

Of course, as time goes on, you might add to your video strategy with interviews, introductions to staff, and more.

8. Create Stories

Instagram Stories are a special feature of the network that allows you to post videos or photos that then vanish within 24 hours.

Why is this a great feature for your restaurant strategy?

Because it allows you to build anticipation for what’s going on and share things that you might not want in your feed.

For example, you could use your stories to…

  • Highlight a new, seasonal, or limited-edition menu item.
  • Show off a newspaper write-up or blog post about your restaurant.
  • Post special promotions and deals.


Want more tips for using Instagram for restaurants? Or would you like some help to create an effective Instagram strategy? Contact our team and learn how DevourNow can help!

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