People don’t just eat their food any more. They plate it, snap a photo and share it. Visit any restaurant – from the corner coffee shop to The French Laundry – and you’ll see at least one phone hovering over a table, as diners try to capture the best bird’s-eye view of their duck foie gras or fanciful latte art. While many may view this “what I eat in a day” mentality as too much information (#TMI), millions of others are eating it up. Seriously, millions. There are 175 million posts on Instagram using #foodporn.

Why Instagram is Good for the Restaurant Business

Instagram is the photo-sharing platform. Sure, you may see a Caribbean sunset scrolling through Facebook, but it’s usually overpowered by the number of news outlets with catchy headlines. Instagram, on the other hand, is where pictures say a thousand words. This is where people want to see pretty things.

As a restaurant, that’s great news for you. You have a top-notch kitchen and professionally trained chef at your social-media fingertips, which means you’re already miles ahead of most businesses on Instagram.

Of course, it’s not just about creating food-porn-worthy images. Instagram is a particularly active platform, which means it’s ideal for interacting with customers. Use Instagram to engage with customers, and they will gladly amplify your business to their own followers. This ripple effect is what makes Instagram a valuable tool in your overall marketing plan. Ready to get started?

7 Instagram Best Practices for Restaurants

Whether you’ve hit a plateau on the platform or haven’t yet opened an account, these Instagram strategies for restaurants will help you squeeze the most out of its photo-hungry followers.

1. Hire a Professional

Your iPhone may have portrait mode, but a professional photographer can capture much more creative imagery with their lens. Erica Ciporen, brand marketing manager and social media specialist, even advises against hiring an intern or your friend’s teenage son to take your Instagram photos. A professional photographer knows how to position props in a way that delivers the best shot. Let the expert do what they do best.

Ciporen also recommends hiring a dedicated social media manager to work onsite or a consultant who can freely communicate with someone at the restaurant. While hiring someone may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s the only way to get real results from your social media efforts. It also takes a good chunk of work off your or your manager’s plate.

2. Post Three Times a Day

“As far as posting frequency, it’s advisable to post three times a day. If you can’t manage three posts a day, then at least once a day,” Ciporen says. Every Instagram user has access to Insights, Instagram’s proprietary analytics. It’s free to use and offers some basic – but helpful – information about when to post. If you navigate to the Audience tab, you can view where the majority of your followers reside, their age range, gender and activity schedule. Post during the times you see a spike in activity, so more of your followers will see your content.

3. Create Instagram Stories

When thinking about posts, don’t forget Instagram Stories. As of April 2018, 400 million daily users viewed an Instagram Story. The feature sits above every Instagram users’ feed, so it’s literally top of mind. Stories are also appealing, because they tend to be more intimate and “real.” There’s very little pressure to get the perfect shot for an Instagram Story that lasts only 24 hours versus a photo that lives on your profile page. For restaurants, Instagram Stories is best suited for showcasing nightly specials, events and behind-the-table type of activity. Walk your followers into the kitchen during dinner prep or take them around the bar for the making of your famous mimosas.

4. Use Relevant Hashtags

Yes, your followers will see your posts (depending on the algorithm). But to acquire new followers – and, ultimately, more customers – you need to promote your posts with hashtags that are relevant to your restaurant. Instagram users search by and even follow certain hashtags. Nailing down which work best for you will go a long way in increasing your social engagement and brand awareness. A good place to start is your restaurant’s location, since many Instagrammers use the platform to search for local hot spots. Ciporen adds, “look up food bloggers and see what hashtags they use regularly.”

It’s also important not to go overboard with hashtags. Instagram will let you use 30 in one post, but Track Maven recommends no more than 10 hashtags. Track Maven is a marketing insights company that compared the average engagement per post with the number of hashtags used.
Their data discovered a significant lift in engagement with seven to nine hashtags. Anything above 10 started to see a drop-off.

5. Establish Content Themes

“It’s always good to organize your content into themes,” suggests Ciporen. Like with your blog or newsletter content, your Instagram posts should follow an editorial calendar. You don’t necessarily have to plot out posts for the next three months, but you should have a set weekly schedule that keeps you consistent. “So you could start a running theme like ‘Tequila Tuesday’ or ‘Peek Behind the Kitchen.’ People really like the making-of type content. And, of course, always show the finished product.”

6. Engage With Foodies

Influencer marketing was a $2 billion industry in 2017 and is set to reach $10 billion by 2020, as reported by Adweek. The more people who engage with social media influencers, the more businesses can benefit. Ciporen seconds that: “Always look up the local influencers in the food scene in your town. Try to build a reciprocal relationship with them by liking, commenting and sharing their content. And then work with them on interactive promotions, like an Instagram takeover or restaurant review.”

In fact, not acknowledging influencers can prove detrimental. Just ask Goodfellas’ Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky, who received a wave of backlash after kicking out Barstool Sports pizza reviewer, Dave Portnoy. An incident like this proves foodies on social media carry a significant weight of influence on potential customers. Make sure you’re creating a good rapport with those influencers.

7. Highlight Your Best Features

Food isn’t everything. Okay, it is…but it’s not everything you have to offer. Do you have bocce ball set up on your back patio, a fresh herb garden on the property or a Chihuly hanging in your lobby? Or, maybe your staff does something special for birthday celebrations or serves dessert in a vintage ferris wheel. Capture these features with a lifestyle photo or short video. You can even turn them into Instagram Highlights, so they stand out when people visit your profile.

Highlights lets you categorize your restaurant’s best features and make them permanent fixtures on your Instagram profile. Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach, Florida, for example, is a restaurant right on the ocean. Their location is obviously a major draw for them, so they titled one of their Highlights simply “Views” and use it to share those beautiful beachside sunsets.

Make Your Restaurant Instagram-Worthy

There’s no denying Instagram is the photo album for food, which is why every restaurant should have a presence on this platform. If used wisely, you’ll be able to use Instagram to draw in new customers and keep loyal patrons coming back.

Of course, the experience people have at your restaurant will largely impact if and how they interact with you on social media. So make sure you’re always creating a memorable meal, and that doesn’t just include what’s on the plate. Thanks to Talus Pay, you can keep the flow of service moving quickly, even on your busiest night. With smooth service, good ambiance and a delicious meal, you’ll have an Instagram-worthy restaurant that deserves to be seen on social.

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Chad Vanags

Chad Vanags is the Chief Marketing Officer at Talus. His top priority is building out online and offline environments that provide more value to Talus clients and prospects than any other payment processor in the industry. Before joining Talus, he helped multiple online businesses build automated sale and marketing systems and partner programs that improved customer engagement and retention and significantly increased leads and revenue, including HUMAN Healthy Vending/Snacknation, Ecommerce Influence (co-founder), MVMT Watches, Stance Socks, Tipsy Elves, Blenders Eyewear, Klaviyo, and many more. Outside of the office he enjoys ping pong, eating tacos, camping, ‘shredding the gnar’ (surfing), and all Cleveland sports… yes, including the Browns.

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