16 February 2018
With over 600 million active users every month and 95 million posts published every day, Instagram’s success has nothing left to prove. The social media platform has become more than essential to boost businesses’ online visibility. And it has become even more of a key player for restaurants: food is people’s third favorite type of content on Instagram.
Instagram isn’t difficult to use, but it’s best to follow a few guidelines to make the most of what the platform has to offer. Here are a few tips and tricks to take your restaurant’s Instagram account to the next level, reach a new audience of potential customers, and convert them to real ones.
1) Create a business and restaurant account
The first step is obviously to get your restaurant on Instagram. Once you’ve created an account, the only thing you have to do is go to your Profile, click on Settings and Account, check the “Switch to Business Profile” option, and fill the required information.
You’ll then be able to access your account’s statistics (number of views, number of profile views following a post, number of clicks…).
Make sure your restaurant is easily identifiable: your username has to match the name of your restaurant, or at least be coherent with your concept, so people can readily find you. Keep your profile public so that people who don’t follow you can also see your posts (and be compelled to follow you!). Remember to put up all the important information in your bio, namely the restaurant’s phone number, address, and opening hours, as well as a link to your website.
To this day, 8 million businesses have already created dedicated Instagram accounts, a number which confirms how well professionals have embraced the platform. The next step for beginners would be to learn how to use it efficiently to reach their goals.
2) Publish scrumptious photos that’ll make your followers hungry
Instagram is by far the most visual social media platform: its raison d’être was to allow people to publish quality pictures with the filters available on their phone. It is more and more routine for restaurants to make a name for themselves and build their reputation on Instagram. Visual content being more appreciated than textual content, be sure to publish beautiful, appetizing photos on your account that will easily generate engagement.
New York City’s most famous deli restaurant, Katz’s Delicatessen, regularly shares “food porn” photos highlighting the mouth-watering quality of their sandwiches. And it works: these types of posts often get them over 3,000 likes.
3) Settle on a singular visual identity to shape your online presence
Using the same filter for your published content will lend a harmonious and aesthetic effect to your feed. Continuity in your editorial policy is key. In your posts, make sure your logo appears and feel free to appropriate a few words or expressions that’ll set you apart. This is how your restaurant will be recognized: you’re building a brand identity for your restaurant, a strategy that Pizza Loves Emily in New York has applied very effectively:
4) Engage with your followers to build a relationship with them
It is paramount to interact with your followers and with other Instagram users to build a relationship with them. Find out what your audience’s interests are, what your followers like, their go-to spots, the accounts they follow… and use all that information in your interactions with them. Reply to all their messages and leave comments on their photos to show your interest. But don’t be too pushy—you don’t want to run the risk of being seen as a spam account.
5) Encourage your customers to publish content themselves
Finding a way to incite your followers and customers to publish their own content of your restaurant is a good way for you to get free advertising. That’s what is called UGC (user-generated content), content that is created and shared by customers, a way to spread more photos of your restaurant with a lesser cost and generate engagement with your customers who will be pleased to see their posts published on your account.
Paris New York favors UGC on Instagram, which has proved to be quite a good strategy for them. The burger restaurant set up a space in its bathroom entirely dedicated to the taking of selfies:
Burger King also encourages Instagram users to publish photos of their burgers. The chain account then relies on “regrams” to fill its feed:
6) Publish entertaining and appetizing content
Post pictures of your dishes that’ll have your followers mouth-watering by making it seem as though they can just taste the food through the screen. That’s all there is to food porn! Describe it with specifics: the taste, smell, texture… Feel free to use humor, to be entertaining: content that makes people smile or laugh is always more successful. Big Mamma manages to bring together food porn and humor, and generates excellent engagement rates on all its posts:
7) Use current events to publish pertinent content
The calendar year provides many opportunities to share timely content with your followers. You can extend your best wishes after the new year, during the holiday season, celebrate Mother’s Day, Halloween, Easter… Spot all the dates you can use and think up creative ideas for posts that will make your followers smile and create engagement. Our advice is also to share your own milestones with them: your chef has won an award, your restaurant celebrates an anniversary, you were talked about on the news… Use all the interactive channels at your disposal to communicate with them about these events and maintain a close link with your customer base.
8) Share videos
Videos generate good engagement rates and reach a wider audience. Why not show what’s going on in the kitchen, in the restaurant, or on your plates?
A “food porn” video shared by Benedict in Paris was viewed over 3,000 times:
Instagram’s story feature is a good tool to increase your visibility on the platform. Stories allow you to promote your storytelling strategy by communicating more directly with your customers. Whenever your restaurant is tagged in one of your customers’ stories, feel free to repost it on your own account with proper credits. That way, you can relate to your followers that an influencer, or even just a happy customer, has come to eat at your restaurant. Reposts of this kind are a token of trust for potential new customers—don’t forget to use them!
9) Organize contests to widen your reach
Contests can quickly increase your follower count and your restaurant’s online visibility. Our tip for contest guidelines is to make contestants like your post, follow your account, and tag friends in their comments. If the prize is appetizing enough, you can also ask that they share your post with a unique hashtag. Signature Restaurant in Algiers often uses contests to boost its visibility:
10) Use the right hashtags to maximize your visibility
Hashtags are a way for Instagram’s algorithms to better index and highlight your content so new users can see it. Be careful to use the most used hashtags to maximize your visibility! As an example, the hashtag #burger is used three times as often as #burgers; it is consequently wiser for you to use the first hashtag:
Here are a few of the most popular hashtags on Instagram:
#food: 260 million posts
#foodporn: 150 million posts
#yummy: 110 million posts
#instafood: 107 million posts
The food guide Le Fooding gives Instagram users the chance to be regrammed and thus be seen by thousands of people. To that end, you have tag the media outlet twice in your post, with a hashtag (#lefooding) and a mention (@lefooding). Paris restaurant Draco had one of its truffle pizza regrammed:
11) Create your own hashtag to track your restaurant's progress
Having a unique hashtag for your restaurant allows you to track your standing on Instagram. Paris New York uses that strategy with the singular hashtag #mercreditoilettes (#wednesdayrestroom):
12) Share behind the scenes content with your followers
In addition to photos of food, feel free to share content from backstage. Introduce the members of the team, highlight their personality, share anecdotes, pictures of the kitchen staff in action… It’s important for your customers to see everything that goes into preparing their food, and it can be gratifying for your team to be recognized. You may run a business account, but there are human beings behind all aspects of your restaurant!
The pizzeria Bianco often shares content featuring staff members. For Christmas, they highlighted members of the team with a lot of humor to boot:
13) Share news and up-to-date promotions to keep your customers coming back
Publish content about special deals, promotions and events: they’re a perfect way to attract customers to your restaurant.
14) Add emojis to boost your posts’ engagement rate
Emojis allow you to improve how well your posts generate engagement. They’re also a way to appear more sympathetic, and to build a closer bond with your followers. We recommend you use the knife and fork, sushi, burger, and pizza emojis that are very popular:
The influencer @stuffbeneats (40,000 followers) uses several emojis in his captions, and generates an average engagement rate of 7% on his posts, which is an excellent rate with an audience of this size.
15) Collaborate with influencers
A smart collaboration with an influencer can boost your restaurant’s online visibility. For a collaboration to be effective, you have to pick your influencers carefully: the menu and spirit of your restaurant have to be in line with the type of content published by the influencer.
Le Dersou recently collaborated with @lefrenchfood (19,600 followers on Instagram), who shared a photo of one of their dishes on his account:
You can even go further, like Roomies Burger who collaborated with @PariswithCharlotte to create a limited edition “PariswithCharlotte” burger:
Another influencer, Stéphanie Guillemette, organizes regular brunches with SLOE (but not exclusively), and takes care of promoting them ahead of time to fill the restaurant’s tables.