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Why Instagram is a game changer for restaurants

By Anna-Sofia Jonsson, 17 Sep 2019

Keep reading - 5 minutes reading time

It’s a fact that we eat with our eyes first, and the expression has lived on for generations. Truth be told we eat with all our senses, even the sense of hearing. So, maybe it’s not that strange for Instagram to be considered a powerhouse when it comes to brand awareness. For the restaurant business, this is a huge opportunity and possibly the best industry to take advantage of Instagram’s 300 million users. But how do you succeed?


Instagram in numbers

Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform today. If you think about it, it’s not particularly strange.



Did you know that the original idea for Instagram was to create and app where users could share their location with one another? However, the two founders realized at an early stage that their idea was very similar to others already on the market and decided that all communication in their app would be based on photos. Only photos. Functionality not in line with this new idea was removed, and the application was given a new name – Instagram. Short for “instant telegram”.

Instagram was launched in 2010 and had over 1 million users within the first two months. Instagram is owned by Facebook since 2012.


The platform that grew strong over night

On a daily basis, a great amount of data is shared through Instagram’s application. Here are a few fun facts:

  • Instagram has over 300 million users
  • Over 60 million photos and images are posted daily (not including stories!)
  • 53% of all Instagram users are millennials (between 18-29 years of age)

Why is this important to you? When your guests post photos of your food or location, you’ve generated free publicity. It’s a huge deal today.



Free publicity and marketing – Starbucks lead the way!

Have you ever wondered why no Starbucks staff members seem to be able to spell your name correctly? Not even if you’re spelling it out to them. The answer is simple. They are told to spell your name wrong.

Not only does it make people laugh, but also take a picture of it and post on their social channels. The Starbucks logo then reminds people of the company and teases them to visit a location near them. Genius. Free publicity at its best: free of charge, spontaneous and convincing from satisfied customers.

“Instagram is gonna bring people here. But you wanna make people come back. It’s gotta be good.” – CORY NG, owner Milk & Cream Cereal Bar in New York City


Who runs the show (your social channels)?

Who is best suited to run your social media accounts? You decide but be careful and don’t give access to everyone in the staff.

Is there a marketing department? Great. Let them set a social media strategy and have the final say before anything is published. If not, chose one or a few staff members that want to do it, takes good pictures and can convey your message in an effective way.

Publish often! Every day if possible. If there isn’t enough time to post daily, make an effort and try posting weekly. It could be anything ranging from menu items, news, restaurant updates or new drink alternatives. Be creative and have fun with it!



Restaurant guests trust Instagram

According to Independents analysis 30% of restaurant visitors say they wouldn’t visit a restaurant with poor Instagram presence. We may add that there is more to ‘presence’ than the posts. Such as: photos tagged by a guest using the location or company account name or pictures using a hashtag related to your restaurant.

As restaurant guests, we tend to trust other people’s judgement when we can see what’s the venues and menu items with our own eyes.


Decides what to order before arrival

Going back only 10 years, when social media was starting to find its place in people’s lives, taking a picture of your food before eating it was unheard of. Why would anyone need a picture of their food? Today, it’s the norm. And it’s relatively important to generations like the millennials (and the following generations, obviously).

Today, Instagram can be used to determine which restaurant to visit, what to order once you get there and which drink to try first. A lot of the research needed is done through Instagram by studying photos and reading captions long before the actual visit.


Outstanding plating is crucial

According to research conducted by the consumer intelligence agency Matu/Matchbox results show that 69% of the participants take one or more photos of their meal before consuming it. This will push restauranteurs to be creative and implement new ideas to their plating repertoire.


“The pressure to be “Insta-worthy” has led many restaurateurs to rethink menu items and decor to better serve the photo-happy guests coming through the door” – VERONICA AN


Insta-worthy location

For years now, Instagram has sat at the center of trends in food and beverages. Of course, everything matters. Even the restaurant needs to look and feel your concept. There is no right answer here, but the answer could be simple as a printed tile floor, a wall of paper rolls in a bathroom or a pretty wall to take a picture by including your logo. The little things that make you stand out (in a good way) will boost the free publicity wheel faster and faster.



Instagram for you who run a restaurant

Instagram will not only help you attract new and returning guests, there are other reasons as to why you need to include Instagram to your marketing strategy.


Keep an eye on the competition

Is anyone within your niche attracting more guests than anyone else? What are they doing differently? Plating? Do they have a lot of followers? Do their guests tag them? Or is there anyone else, in a different niche that is doing something great that you could be inspired by?


Set your staff up for success

By making it a habit to peek at the pictures your guests post and tag your account (or location) in you can quickly spot irregularities in plating and service.



A few tips to get you going

  • Hashtags! Play with them. Come up with a unique hashtag for your restaurant and use it to collect relevant content under one tag. Hold your horses and stick to 2 (max 3!) hashtags. Make sure to conduct research before you go live – don’t guess.
  • Share highlights! Share photos and stories posted by guests and remember to interact with comments. Thank them for visiting and seize the opportunity to ask them what they liked the most. Instagram is not the place for a press conference – communicate with the users!
  • Story highlights. Use story highlights to share news, and to give the visitor a simple first step to get to know you a bit better.
  • Post quality pictures. Publish often, but don’t publish just to publish. Use a good camera and share valuable content that will make your social media followers to convert to a restaurant guest.
  • Make people laugh. Find a way to build relationships with your social media-friends. Everyone likes to laugh, what’s your cookie?
  • Find relevant partners. Find ways to explore each other’s networks by, for example, have a “guest cook night” where you cook at each other’s restaurants or host events together. There are so many fun things you could do together.

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