Food dominates our Instagram feeds. You won’t go a day without seeing a friend post about a new restaurant discovery or a close-up shot of someone’s lunch. As of writing, the hashtag #food has been used over 498 million times on Instagram. In fact, the social media platform found that food and beverage are among the top categories for its users.
With an audience of billions, almost 40% of whom are interested in food content, there’s no denying that Instagram can do wonders for your restaurant business.
Why Should You Use Instagram for Local Restaurant Promotion?
For many, Instagram is the first place they consult to research a business. As a visual platform, Instagram is able to induce crave. How often have you seen a food post and instantly felt your mouth water?
What’s best is that Instagram has launched many built-in features to make it easier for business owners to connect with their audience.
Restaurants can use their Instagram accounts not only to share drool-worthy shots of their food but also to get more online bookings, promote new menu items, and get discovered.
Below are eight tips to help you use Instagram to promote your restaurant:
- Optimize Your Account for Local Discovery
Optimizing your profile increases your chances of appearing in Instagram search, discovery feed, and suggested content. Using specific keywords and relevant hashtags makes it possible for your target audience to discover your business organically.
Here’s how you can optimize your profile to improve discoverability and grow your restaurant:
- Consider adding a keyword to your name or username – For keywords, you can either use your location, the type of cuisine/dish you specialize in, or both. This is especially useful for brand-new restaurants since only a few people will know about your restaurant.
For example, if someone from a certain city is looking for new pizza parlors, their search term may look like: “city + pizza.” Your chances of ranking on Instagram search without either keywords on your profile is highly unlikely.
- Include a business category – This will tell Instagram’s algorithm to display your business when users search for restaurants in your area.
- Add secondary keywords to your bio – If you don’t want to stuff your username/name with keywords, adding them to your bio can also help you rank in search. For example, if you want to rank for “Italian,” you can also include “pizza” and “pasta” in your bio.
- Include relevant hashtags and keywords in your posts – Never take your captions for granted. Be consistent about mentioning keywords whether through the hashtags or on the main caption. This will help Instagram understand what your profile is all about and suggest your content to your target audience.
- Always use location tags – Location tags can help potential customers discover where to find you. It also helps bring customers to your doorstep effortlessly. In addition, location tags can signal the Instagram algorithm to work in your favor as the platform can suggest your location to users who’ve made related searches.
Instead of simply adding a generic restaurant category, New York-based restaurant Sticky’s chose “Chicken Joint,” so it appears when people specifically search for that keyword. The restaurant also makes sure to include its different locations in its bio as well as the keyword “Chicken Fingers.”
If you’re looking for creative ideas for your bio section, make the most out of the AI trend and use an Instagram bio generator that helps you generate bio ideas in your tone and format with a few clicks.
- Create a Mouthwatering Instagram Profile
TripAdvisor states that 72% of consumers have been influenced to try a new restaurant thanks to photos posted online. The best way to convince potential customers to visit your restaurant is by tempting them with all kinds of food content.
While flat lays of beautiful tablescapes are always popular, today’s social media users prefer minimally edited shots of good food. Think: a close-up of sandwich layers, oozing cheese, and overflowing bowls. Don’t be afraid to capture some of the mess. And you can also use procreate brush downloads to edit your images and add finesse to them.
Your Instagram content strategy should utilize all content options on Instagram: photos, social media videos, stories, live, and Reels. If you’re looking to boost engagement, Reels get 35% more engagement than any other content type on the platform.
Filipino fast casual restaurant Tradisyon posts a combination of ultra close-ups, eye-catching flat lays, and mouthwatering videos on its Instagram page. Now with over 10,000 followers and hundreds of likes on each post, the small Hell’s Kitchen restaurant has quickly gained a following thanks to its hunger-inducing grid.
When planning your Instagram feed, not only should you take mouthwatering visuals, but you should also use a content previewer and approve social media content in advance to make sure your feed looks cohesive and eye-catching. Once approved, you can schedule the posts ahead using social media scheduling tools.
To get more visuals for your Instagram feed, you can reach out to food bloggers and sign a photo release form that allows restaurants to use images legally on the business profile.
- Promote Your Restaurant Menu
Before visiting someplace new, one of the first things diners look at is the restaurant menu.
The menu should include descriptions and prices so they know what to expect. Most restaurants will post their menu as the highlights section of their Instagram profiles for easy and quick access. You can also add your menu to the link in bio.
Check out the examples below:
Willie Mae’s has a highlight for its menu where you can find photos of some of its items. The story highlight will also instruct you to click the link in bio for a more detailed menu.
LA’s Grand Central Market Icon Eggslut breaks down its menu items per category on Instagram Highlights for easier browsing.
Promoting your menu also means upselling dishes or coming up with limited-time offers to get people to your door. But it’s important to make sure that you have the right product description that creates crave.
- Make it Easy for Users to Create Reservations
Instagram has a built-in “Reserve” action button displayed at the front and center of your profile, making it impossible to miss. Adding a button on your profile can help increase traffic to your restaurant and automate the otherwise tedious process of tracking and scheduling reservations.
Before you can add a “Reserve” action button to your profile, you must create an account with one of Instagram’s partners.
If you want to go the traditional route and take reservations via phone or email, you can add contact action buttons on your profile. However, if you’re still running a small operation, we recommend allowing your customers to make reservations through DMs or text messaging—the more accessible, the better.
Clicking on the “Reserve” action button on Saltie Girl’s profile opens a pop-up page where you can view the available time slots and seating areas for lunch and dinner.
Most reservation partners will allow you to add need-to-know information on the landing page, such as terms and conditions and time limits. Resy, for example, allows you to add a map location and featured articles on the page.
- Partner with Local Food Bloggers
Unless you have multiple locations or a massive budget, you’re better off partnering with local food bloggers—not just because they will cost less but also because their audience will be people from your area.
Flood bloggers can help increase brand awareness and trust as well as provide valuable feedback about your restaurant. After all, more than 50% of people look to influencers before making a purchase.
Nolafoodgals is a New Orleans-based food blogger who regularly posts about local restaurants on their Instagram page. Restaurants within the area can email the blogger for a feature.
- Repost Visitors’ Content and Reviews
Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful local restaurant marketing strategy. Unlike influencers who are likely paid to say a good thing or two about a restaurant, reviews by real customers are more authentic.
Nine out of ten people say they consult online reviews before checking out a local business.
Encourage diners to leave a review and post their photos on social media.
Having reviews on your Instagram page can help you generate more sales and expose your business to a broader network.
Manila-based Pizzeria Crosta reposts reviews and stories by customers. Thanks to word-of-mouth and the power of social media, the small restaurant now has over 36 thousand followers on Instagram and is set to open more branches.
Pro-tip: Use a dynamic QR code generator to create customized QR codes for your restaurant. This way, customers can quickly scan to view your social profiles and tag you on their posts. When you have an Instagram presence and it’s easy for restaurant visitors to find your profile with ease, it can also help to get more Google reviews which can attract more local visitors to your restaurant.
Once you start getting reviews for your restaurant, it can be a great idea to find reliable review management software that allows users to monitor, manage, and respond to customer feedback across various sites. Not only can it improve your online reputation, but it can also help to increase brand trust on Instagram as you can always repurpose those reviews for your Instagram feed.
- Give Away Restaurant Gift Cards
Hosting a giveaway on Instagram can grow your followers 70% faster in three months. Everyone likes a freebie, and it’s a surefire way to get your restaurant name out there.
Giveaways don’t just increase your follower count, but it also helps you build a stronger connection with your existing customers, as they have an attractive incentive to engage with you online.
A “tag-a-friend” type giveaway is always great because it can help build awareness about the contest and your brand at the same time. Make the mechanics as easy as possible so that more people will enter.
But if you want to take the next step, you can ask your restaurant visitors to upload their photos of dishes and therefore get more user-generated content for your profile.
- Run Instagram Ad Campaigns
As a local business, you can’t rely on organic posts alone. Instagram ad campaigns can put your restaurant in front of valuable audiences who have interest in a certain area and give you more opportunities to get seen and visited. Plus, most Instagram users already follow brands, so there is already a desire to take action.
Take a look at the data below:
Marketers say that Instagram offers the best ROI and tools for selling products. If you’re still undecided on the best platform to run your ads, this is your sign. To analyze your ad performance and improve your next ad campaign, you can always make good use of Instagram analytics.
Start Growing Your Restaurant on Instagram
Today, people will doubt your existence if you’re not on Instagram. This is especially true for businesses. But aside from proving your existence, the platform is also a powerful tool that can help you grow from a small neighborhood restaurant into a premier dining destination.
With Instagram, you can: engage with existing customers, tempt locals with #foodporn, and put your small restaurant on the map. Use these tips and start posting today!