The Big Picture - Effective Instagram Marketing For Restaurants - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The Big Picture – Effective Instagram Marketing For Restaurants

There was a time when Instagram was the sole domain of the jet-set who used it to post enviable photographs of exotic locations and the latest designer ensemble.  Although still a favorite with the It Crowd, Instagram has come a long way since its inception in 2010 and, now has a revenue of approximately $6.84 billion – which, in 2019, included $20 billion in ad revenue.

Food for thought

One of the many industries taking advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by Instagram is the restaurant and food industry.  Restaurants across the globe now use Instagram to advertise their wares and, many even create bespoke dishes, which are designed specifically to be shown off on the platform.

With 500 million active daily users, it’s no wonder that Instagram is rapidly becoming the go-to platform for the food industry but, how do you go about using Instagram to market your restaurant?  The following is our guide to getting on the ‘Gram – and getting it right!

It’s all in the planning

When starting out with any kind of social media for business, planning is key.  On your own, personal accounts it’s fine to post as and when the muse takes you but, for your restaurant, you need to be a little more structured.  Set aside some time every week to plan and write your posts and to schedule them.

Take into account the day of the week and match to the tone of your post, for example, Monday blues and Friday celebrations.  Although it may take you an hour or two to put them all together, the effort will be worth it (you can always amend or add posts should you need to).

High days and holidays

If you’re running a special offer event for a major event or national holiday, make sure that you start advertising it on Instagram well in advance.

People tend not to leave their celebrations for Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day to chance so you need to start posting about your offer at least two or three weeks before the happy day.

As well as the biggies, you can offer deals for the more obscure celebrations such as National Friendship Day or, even,  National Bubblewrap Appreciation Day (January 27th, in case you were wondering).

People love a celebration, and usually don’t need much persuading to make an event of it!

Playing tag

Ever since Chris Messina’s #barcamp hashtag turned up on social media in 2007, hashtags have been big business for marketing, and, if you’re not yet using one for your restaurant, it’s time you started.  Before starting out on Instagram, get your restaurant a memorable and reasonably short hashtag.

Having a great hashtag gives your restaurant credibility but, more importantly, it’s a sneaky way of getting your customers to do your marketing for you.  How?  Make sure that your hashtag features in all of your marketing materials as well as on your menu and receipts.

Encourage customers to ‘tag’ your restaurant in their Instagram posts by offering an incentive such as a discount or free portion of fries and then sit back and let them do the rest.

Make your restaurant ‘Grammable

If you’re planning on making Instagram your main platform for marketing then you need to make sure that your business is up to snuff.  This means ensuring consistency throughout your branding including your logo, your restaurant’s decor, and your social media content.

When it comes to the ‘Gram, you earn bonus points for adding a ‘standout’ feature to your restaurant which just begs people to take photographs.

A great example of this is the Coppa Club chain in London which periodically offers outdoor seating in igloos and pods.  While you’re at it, create a couple of signature dishes, which will get those fingers clicking and uploading whilst in your restaurant.

A picture is worth a thousand words

You know that Instagram is all about pictures, right?  Instagram users currently share 95 million photographs and videos every day – which means you’ve got a fair bit of competition.

Unless you’re a closeted David Bailey, it’s always best to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your restaurant and dishes.

You can, of course, snap your own for your daily posts but, when it comes to your profile pictures and marketing materials, an amateur job simply won’t cut it.  Keep your photography as clean and bright as possible to make it pop from the page – it’s fine to have the occasional pic of customers having fun in the restaurant but keep it simple.

Also, remember to include a photograph of the exterior of the restaurant for the purposes of association – potential customers may drive past your restaurant without giving it a second thought until they see a photo of it on Instagram.

When it comes to Instagram, your imagery really is everything and, so, you need to be prepared to invest in it.  Instagram allows you to upload up to 10 photographs, so you have plenty of scope to show off your venue to its full advantage.

Tell your story

Having some fantastic pictures is great but, it doesn’t stop there.  Instagram also gives you the opportunity to tell the story of your brand with its Story Highlights and allow Instagram users to browse your profile in a similar way as they would peruse a website. You can even add Story Highlight Covers to make your page look super-professional.

Telling the story of your brand creates intimacy between your restaurant and the reader – particularly if your story is a good one and, can give you an advantage in a hugely competitive market.  Online ordering company, Upmenu is a great example of a company using Instagram to great advantage with clean, clear photography, and a compelling story.

Competitions and giveaways

We all love a freebie – that’s just a simple fact.  Whether it’s a free meal for two or, just a free drink, Instagrammers are usually more than happy to help you out with your marketing in return for ‘something for nothing’.  Run a ‘tag a friend’ competition for quick results and make sure to include terms and conditions, how the winner will be selected and, what the prizes will be.

Under the influence

This one is a bit trickier – but a goldmine if you can swing it.  Do a quick search for influencers and food bloggers in your area on Instagram and then start to engage with them.  Once you’ve built up a rapport, you can then invite them to the restaurant for a free or heavily discounted meal.  Getting an influencer on side can be one of the most lucrative marketing methods available to a restaurant – just be sure not to harass people as this can very easily have the opposite effect.

Instagram advertising

Like boosted posts on Facebook, Instagram users can pay to promote their stories to users’ feeds.  Although these stories will generally look like regular posts, they will feature a badge which shows that it’s a ‘sponsored post.’

These sponsored posts can feature content, imagery, and, also, a call to action and a website or landing page link.  Instagram advertising is pay per click and, is calculated through targeting, ad placement and format and, the time of year that the ad is placed.

Although it’s impossible to say exactly how much your Instagram advertising will cost, most users find that they spend around £1.20 per click on average.

There are a number of different kinds of ad available on Instagram and, these are as follows:

Photo ads

Fairly self-explanatory, photo ads allow you to showcase your restaurant and menu items through snazzy images.  You can choose from a few calls to action including sending visitors to your Instagram profile or to your website.

Video ads

Instagram allows you to include video footage of up to one minute in length in your advertising.  These can be used really effectively to give visitors a quick tour of your restaurant or a sneak peek of one of your chefs in action.

Carousel ads


These types of ads offer a kind of slide show of images or videos and offer a little more scope if you have a lot to offer.  You can use up to 10 images or videos in order to highlight both your restaurant and your dishes.

Collection ads

All singing, all dancing, these ads let you combine photos, videos, and direct response – all in one advert for the ultimate in marketing power.

Explore ads

These are ads that are accessed when somebody clicks on a photo or video within Instagram’s Explore screen. Advertisers can use both photos and videos in these ads.


Getting on board with Instagram can quickly net you a ton of followers and, more importantly, a ton of new customers.  Today’s social media user is pretty savvy and, can spot a sales ad a mile off.

For this reason, make sure that all of your Instagram content is interesting, engaging, and, eminently ‘grammable.  Before starting out, take the time to get to know the platform inside out to figure out how it works and, who uses it for what.

By familiarising yourself with the platform and its users, you’ll be in a great position when it comes to knowing what kind of content to use for your posts and for your adverts.  Happy ‘gramming!

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