How to Use Instagram to Market Your Restaurant

With so many different apps being available, it is hard to choose which are worthwhile.  One app that I have found to be extremely helpful for the restaurant business is Instagram. 
Heard of Instagram? If not, you’re one of the few left on the planet. It’s a mobile based photo and short video sharing social network. And your customers are using it. Instagram has been big news in the food industry for a while now. When we get a tasty meal, what do we almost always do first? We take a picture with our phones. Next, we send it to our friends, post it in Snapchat and of course, upload it to Instagram. 

The question is how you can maximize on the hundreds of customers already doing this to help promote your restaurant and spread the word of your amazing cuisine and ambience? In this guide, we’ll help you find out. 

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 postings a picture which delivers a beer and pizza lover kind of vibe. Customers 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. 
Be Searchable and Shareable:

Select an easily recognizable Instagram username and use relevant business keywords in your profile to help increase your search-results. Tag posts with hashtags, and be sure to make them relevant (and not too out-of-the-ordinary) so users can find you. Some key hashtags to include are your restaurant name and a signature dish or drink name. Remember, stay consistent in your use. 

User generated content is Instagram gold: 

There are a million ways you can do this. Put up a picture 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 the meal they ordered 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 posting around 5¬6 pm when most people leave their offices and are making dinner plans. 
Connect with customers:

Your customers have networks that you want to utilize. In every business, this is a benefit but in hospitality it’s even more valuable. Just think, your customer snaps a picture of their ice cream and posts it online. It’s a hot day, and most of their friends want ice cream too. Not only has this image attracted their attention, but it’s likely that you patron’s compadres are all within the local area. 

Customers also relate their dining experience as they help restaurants to understand what dishes are popular (or most Instagram-worthy) and entice local users through your doors. The power of social proof is vast - no one wants to waste money on a bad meal, so it helps customers know that they’re in safe hands. Especially when it’s an image that speaks for itself in all of its #foodheaven glory. 

This is not an overnight success kind of social media platform, in fact, 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.