While we are writing this article there are over a 100 million #food posts on Instagram, over 3 million self-professed people claiming to be #foodie, over 8 million #foodporn posts and over a million unashamed declarations of #foodgasms. These are just the four of the endless manners Instagramers express their love of food on the 6-year-old social media platform. As a restaurant owner, we hope you can smell the fragrance of opportunity that these numbers are bringing to you. An opportunity for cost effective advertising, to connect and engage with your current and potential customers in a language they speak. So it is clear as a restaurant business you have to be on Instagram! Let us help you understand how to use it to maximize your marketing efforts and eventually profits.
Flaunt your chef: Chefs are cool. Your customers and followers love to see a real person who works up the magic to create those foodgasmic dishes that your restaurant serves. Share behind the scenes pictures of your restaurant’s kitchen on your Instagram account. Your Instagram community will gobble down your staff pics as readily as they gobble your food.
Plan and project an authentic journey of your restaurant: Instagrammers love authenticity so stay true to your brand identity. Try to maintain a consistency with your restaurant’s theme, food category and customer preferences. A healthy food restaurant has no business posting a pic which gives a beer and pizza lover kind of vibe. They also love a brand that values their opinions. We suggest creating a weekly Instagram marketing plan in advance. Mondays can be quirky question day, “Which is your favorite dish on our menu?”, you can devote posts to Throwback Thursdays or Fun Fridays, Saturdays can be for contests.
Special of the day pics never fail: We can’t overstate this recommendation. Put up a pic of the specials. It seems so simple right? You will be surprised at how many customers come and order the special that same evening. This also allows you to measure if your social media efforts are paying up. You can put a call to action like a coupon code along with your specials picture, and observe how many customers use it. Don’t forget to use an intriguing caption and relevant hashtags, though.
Add a sprinkle of Influencer Marketing: There is a famous saying by chef Julia Child: “People who love to eat are always the best people.” If that is the case Food bloggers are rockstars indeed. You can invite a food blogger for a free meal to your restaurant, or pay them per Instagram post for some authentic publicity. Food lovers trust this source of information and a good review or even a mere mention of your restaurant by a famous food blogger can give your marketing efforts a tremendous boost. Search for social media influencers that are relevant to your restaurant business, check if their posts are engaging. Connecting with them is easy, they are usually just an instant message away.
User generated content is Instagram gold: There are a million ways you can do this. Put up a pic of a new dish that has just been added to your restaurant’s menu, now ask Instagram users to ‘Name the dish’. Ask Instagrammers to take a picture of their meal taken at the restaurant and post it along with an actionable hashtag (preferably a restaurant name hashtag), hold a contest around it and award the winner with a free meal. Add your Instagram account name and hashtags on the restaurant menu, this will act as a simple nudge, a gentle reminder to share their photos online. Integrate user reviews and ratings in the menu itself, customers love social proof when ordering food.
Be #hashtagwise and time it right: Hashtags can be tricky but if used strategically they can bear real rewards for your business’s bottom line. You might have to do a lot of A/B testing before getting the #hashtag game right. We suggest you try to create a perfect mixture of hashtags, the time-tested classic ones like #foodie, #foodgasm, #foodporn, #foodaddict, #instafood, #yummy along with newer unique hashtags centered around your restaurant or a current event like #glutenfreeweek or #vegandesserts. Always add your restaurant’s name as a consistent hashtag in all your posts, it helps enhance brand recall. Another important factor to remember is the time to post on Instagram. For example, the best time to reach dinner crowds would be to post around 56 pm when most people leave their offices and are making dinner plans.
Word of caution though this is not an overnight success kind of social media platform, in our opinion no platform is. Instagram efforts reap benefits slowly, but it is worth the wait. Most restaurant businesses are using Instagram for unabashed, in your face kind of advertising. Remember the golden rule of Instagram is not to advertise but ENGAGE.
*Statistics source: Websta.me
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