We all know social media can be an extremely valuable tool for promoting your restaurant. It’s a very effective way to reach your customers on a different level, which is much more personal and non-sales.

I like to think of social media as being like a Starbucks. Nobody goes into a Starbucks to hear someone pitch them on the latest greatest doohickey thing that will change their life forever because it automatically can clean up after their cat (yes, that’s a thing, by the way). It’s called social media because it’s SOCIAL! And you need to keep that in mind
when creating a strategy to use social media to stay top of mind with your current customers and attract new customers.

Why Is No One Seeing My Posts?

I don’t know if you have noticed when you are on your favorite social media platform, but those companies that show up on your feed regularly, some of whom you really like, will very rarely show up.

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok… whatever the social media network is, all have complex algorithms that are hard at work behind the scenes dictating what you see and don’t see. And a lot of that algorithm is based on how often the account posts and how engaged the followers are in response.

Engaging your followers on your various social media sites means creating posts to ensure you are coming up in people’s feeds AND that it is content that they “like” and, ideally, “share.” That’s the hard part but most important if you want to get the most from your social media marketing plan.

Do You Have To Do Social For Your Restaurant?

Let’s talk about why it is important to make sure that your restaurant has a strong online presence. Like it or not, this is the new face of restaurant marketing.

A survey by restaurant marketing agency MGH revealed that today’s diners use social media to choose their next dining destination: 36% of U.S. diners follow restaurants on social media. 45% of U.S. diners said they’d tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post made by the establishment. And 92% now check a review site before trying a new restaurant! That’s huge. Review sites are a form of social media and are one of the most powerful tools for getting new customers to your restaurant.

92% Of Your New Customers Do This First

They CHECK YOUR REVIEWS! And if you have an effective social media strategy for your restaurant, you can attract new customers and bring back old ones by using an engaging posting strategy to promote your restaurant. A social media post allows for great opportunities to create brand awareness, distribute marketing messages, or even drive sales directly from Facebook or Instagram!

It also adds credibility to your business. A potential customer will be quick to go onto the internet to search you out. They’ll look at the review sites and read the most recent reviews, your most recent three on average; they’ll also check the activity on your social media feeds, and then they’ll peruse your website for a menu and hours.

Long ago, if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages, you didn’t exist. Now, if you don’t have an online presence like most of your competitors do, they’ll be perceived as more credible than you and get the business.

If this seems an overwhelming part of restaurant marketing to you, you aren’t alone. It is daunting. Having a professional marketing company that can show you examples of posts they have created for other restaurants with likes, shares, and engagement is a good start to getting into the social game and making sales.

I have seen restaurants effectively manage their social media platforms themselves if they have the resources to have someone specifically in their company who can handle the task. Keep in mind that it does require dedicated hours and a plan, and make sure you approve most of your posts. You don’t want to represent your restaurant in the wrong way

What To Say

We’ll be honest – it is tough to create content continually. And the old adage, “Always be selling,” works differently on social media. On social media, it’s more like, “Always be connecting to sell.”

Your followers may or may not have ever spent money with you, so you need to continually demonstrate to them what kind of business you are, what makes you better, and connect with them so that they are convinced to spend money at your business.

The Power of “3”

Frequency: You need to post at least weekly, and more frequently is better. The sites are like having a Tamagotchi – you need to constantly feed them to keep them alive. (I believe I just dated myself.)

Relevance to your “brand identity”: Design your posts with your brand in mind. Your colors, your logo, your tagline. For example, a good FREE design program that you can use to create social media posts is called Canva. It’s an easy
platform to use and has templates that are pre-made for all social media platforms.

Connection to your followers: this is the reason to do this: customers want to form a relationship with the businesses they support locally, and they want to feel connected. Keep in mind their needs when you are making posts and choose what might appeal to them.

“I Want To Sell Something!”

These posts are easy to come up with; a new product, a special event, a sale or special offer, a change in hours. These are the “selling posts,” and we suggest using them as often as needed but counterbalancing them with more frequent “connection” posts.

Posting on your restaurant’s social media accounts once a day will keep your restaurant in people’s news feeds longer, making it easier for them to remember who you are. Remember that only 20 percent of a brand’s posts should be promotional in nature, while the remaining 80 percent is about sharing content that’s interesting to them.

Let’s Be Friends

We’ve come up with a list of “connection” post ideas for your social media, different prompts you can use to write a post to get your messages across without being boring.

Remember to include relevant hashtags. A hashtag is a label used on social media sites that makes it easier to find information with a theme or specific content. Hashtags encourage social media users to explore content that interests them. Use trending hashtags like #icecreamday on National Ice Cream Day. Be sure to include photos of your ice cream desserts. Use niche hashtags. For example, if you are located in Atlanta, try #atlantaeats.

In addition, use high-quality photos and videos as much as possible. Anything that appeals to the senses other than reading will get more people looking at your posts. Consider how people look at their feeds; it’s a fast-flying reel of information and something needs to jump out at them to get them to stop scrolling and actually take in what you are posting.

Researchers found that 55 percent of people find stories more persuasive than facts and data – so keep that in mind as you consider the following social media prompts.

Posts About People

Your business IS people – you bring your personality and culture to the business, your team interacts with your customers – the business is unique because of your people.

Here are some good ideas for posts that reach your customers on an emotional level:

  • Best advice you were ever given, including an example of the impact on you.
  • Your biggest source of guilty pleasure (guilt admissions are one of the easiest ways to build trust in someone.)
  • Shoutout to a mentor or someone who changed your restaurant.
  • Answer an FAQ.
  • Highlight your favorite neighboring business.
  • Career throwback – spend three sentences on a former job.
  • Next time you have a great day, write down why it was great and include a photo.
  • Inspirational quote.
  • Five ‘Get to Know You’ facts. These could be about the business, the ownership, or a team member.
  • Staff and team photos – if you had a team meeting, a team member reached a milestone employment year, or a new employee – and include short bios.
  • Posts About The Restaurant- These posts highlight how you do what you do, not what you sell. Keep in mind that you want these posts to show that your kitchen is clean, your staff is in fresh uniforms, and the dining room is well-maintained. Pay attention to what’s in the background of images. (We once had a restaurant owner send us a picture that included a rat trap. Needless to say, we cropped it out).

Pics Sell Food

  • Delicious-looking photos of meals with great descriptions.
  • Create a restaurant hashtag and encourage customers to use and tag you when they post photos from their visit. This will allow you to find them and repost their posts.
  • Fun facts about where you source your products – this is an opportunity to highlight local growers and producers.
  • Pictures of people enjoying your restaurant (you can put stickers over their faces to protect their privacy or ask for permission). PRO TIP: Never post a picture of an empty restaurant!
  • Progress and updates on restaurant renovations and the reason and benefits for doing it (ideally that benefit the customer).
  • Pictures of new equipment installed and the benefits they bring.
  • Tell the story behind your business name or logo.
  • Share a throwback image of the restaurant’s beginning.
  • Work With Other People With Followers: Other people are working just as hard as you to grow their business using social media, so there are lots of opportunities to cross-promote, and it doesn’t cost either of you anything.

Be A Local Influencer

  • Build relationships with local food bloggers, influencers, or columnists with a large social media following. One of the perks is that you may be able to get your restaurant’s name and content in front of new audiences.
  • Collaborate with organizations or groups that have large social media followings, such as local sports teams, schools, churches, and community centers. A restaurant we know of worked with a local school group to feed a large group of seniors, and each group posted about the event on their sites to ensure it was successful. This can get you a new audience.
  • Support the suppliers that grow or produce items that you love in the restaurant, and when they cross-promote, people who love that product will seek you out because you use it.

Put Some Action Into It

Action catches people’s attention as they are scrolling – so much so that Instagram’s focus now is “reels” (short videos) instead of still photos.

  • Try having some fun with it and asking for responses from followers. Ask them to share their favorite restaurant memory or the best dish they’ve ever had.
  • Post a Boomerang (your phone will make these… they show simple motion or movement and are almost impossible to scroll past without looking – very good for engagement!).
  • Pictures of videos (short) of the kitchen at work.
  • Posts That Encourage Interaction
  • Get them responding – people can’t resist an online quiz or having their opinion requested. Ask for feedback on new menu items or suggestions for events or specialty products.
  • Ask a question that invites simple, one-word answers. Fill-in-the-blank questions are good, too.
  • Host a poll in your IG stories and promote it in your posts (people love being asked to give their opinion!)
  • Create photo contests – about a specific drink or item you serve, build a photo opportunity like posing with your mascot, or a challenge requiring your customers to accomplish something.
  • Offer restaurant coupons or special discounts for customers who follow your restaurant on social media accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter. This will create an additional incentive to go out and try the restaurant!
  • Post a compelling image with CAPTION THIS contest.
  • Give an offer if they sign up for your loyalty program – having them on your own list, along with all their contact information, is invaluable..

Make Them Go Hmm

This is information your followers can take away and use- helpful tips that provide a benefit.

  • Recipes that customers can try at home and could even feature a special product you sell (like a sauce or salsa.)
  • Industry fact or interesting statistic.
  • Cooking tips – it can be something simple about food prep or garnishing. Video a mini-tutorial in less than a minute.
  • Testimonials from customers (these can be taken off your review sites.)
  • Industry news, like a new food trend or technology that will help your business provide a better experience.

Make Them Laugh

  • Everyone loves a laugh – and it’s a perfect way to show the human side of your business.
  • Restaurant-based memes – add some humor to your social media by sharing restaurant-related memes.
  • Share a funny story from your day (3 sentences or less.)

Get More Positive Reviews

Always monitor your social media and review sites for reviews and comments. When you engage with someone who left you a review or comment, people will respond, and they want to know you see their thoughts. You can like their comments, reply to them in the post, and answer their reviews. Let them know you are there.

This leads to a great opportunity. If someone says something great about their experience or their love of your food or service, ask them to give you a positive review on your review sites. It’s easy to provide them with the link so they can go directly to the site.

On the flip side, unhappy customers tend to take their concerns public for the world to see on social media. If someone has a negative response, you need to respond to that as well. As a business owner, this is an excellent opportunity for you to reach out and solve their problem. It will earn you good press and build a positive reputation while increasing customer loyalty.

Not to worry, though, the more positive reviews you have, the less likely negative reviews will impact your business. Negative feedback is inevitable, but people are quick to dismiss a few when the positive ones far outweigh them.

Bringing It All Together

The restaurant industry is returning to life. In some communities, there are fewer competitors and many people are seeing the benefits of supporting local independent restaurants.

It’s more important than ever for restaurant owners to focus on their social media marketing strategy so they can connect with customers online no matter where they are or what stage of the buying process they happen to be at. With that said, there are many different ways you can promote your restaurant using social media.

I hope this blog gave you some great ideas.

But does this all seem slightly overwhelming?

Want to talk to an expert in social media for restaurants?

Would you like to know the best way to use social media to get new customers, promote to your existing customers, and build a massive email list of NEW customers so WE can market to them and convert them into long-time paying guests for you…with no work on your part?

Click the button below and sign up for a FREE Social Media Check Up with a Professional DFY Social Media Marketing Expert.

Michael Thibault

Known as β€œThe Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.