While social media networks were once primarily used by consumers to connect with friends, they're now essential marketing tools for businesses. According to a study by Cornell's hospitality school, three in four independent restaurants and three in 10 restaurant chains are active on social media.
Social media isn't just a marketing tool, however. It's also a customer engagement tool that helps restaurants build communities online. Customer engagement is crucial during an era when having an in-person community is challenging.
If you feel like you've run out of creative ideas for your social media channels, you've come to the right place. Keep reading to learn nine social media ideas for restaurants, from restaurants, including:
1. Share recipes & cooking tips
Using your restaurant's channels to share cooking tips and recipes is one of the best social media ideas for restaurants because it provides value to your followers. This type of content is especially relevant during the pandemic when more people are experimenting in their kitchens. If your restaurant has a cookbook, sharing a recipe is an excellent way to promote the cookbook.
On Instagram, you could share a photo of a dish and link to the recipe in your bio or write it in the post's caption. Or, you could create a multi-photo post to walk followers through the recipe step by step. Alternatively, you could upload a video of yourself or your restaurant's chef demonstrating a recipe to IGTV or Instagram Stories.
Why Jennifer Crawford is a great example
MasterChef Canada Jennifer Crawford built a brand around sharing recipes and cooking tips from home with their almost 16,000 Instagram followers. In this post, Jennifer teased a donair (commonly known as "doner" outside of Canada) recipe with several photos. They also linked to an article containing the recipe in their bio.
2. Regularly share user-generated content
How does it help?
User-generated content (USG) is multimedia content that your customers create about your business. USG serves as social proof that your restaurant is excellent and helps attract customers.
In an age when 96% of people distrust ads, USG can help you break through to customers. After all, people are more likely to believe fellow customers rather than ads. Your social media followers want to know that other people like them like your restaurant.
When you repost content initially shared by a customer, it makes that customer feel appreciated — dare we say famous — for being featured in your restaurant's social media feed.
USG is also easier to create than original social media content because you're using other people's creative instead of making your own. Just make sure to give credit where it's due by explaining that you didn't create the photos you're sharing and tagging the people who did.
How TERANGA does it
Harlem's African superfood restaurant TERANGA thanked their community for supporting them during the COVID-19 pandemic by reposting photos of their food that customers shared. They tagged their customers in each post to give them credit.
3. Share food photos
How does it help?
Have you ever watched a commercial for a restaurant that got your mouth watering and made you want to drop what you were doing to get their food? Nothing makes people hungry — and want to dine at your restaurant — quite like enticing food photos. Sharing tantalizing images of food is one of the best social media ideas for restaurants because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
Invoke hunger by sharing photos of your food looking its best. Learn some photography basics and snap your shots with a smartphone, or ask colleagues to recommend a food photographer.
Why Pura Vida Miami is a good example
Pura Vida Miami used good lighting and a simple background to make their food stand out in this tantalizing photo. This clever photo makes you want to order more because it shows off several dishes. The branded bottle in the back also reminds you whose post you're looking at.
Recommended Reading: Instagram Tips for Chefs & Cooks
4. Share stories and photos about your staff
Why is it important?
Showing off your staff on social media makes them feel appreciated. Appreciation can help prevent staff turnover in an industry that's notorious for it.
Friends and family of staff will also love recognizing their loved ones on social media, which will likely draw high engagement. Engagement is great for social media algorithms because it indicates to the platforms that you're posting quality content. The algorithm will therefore show your posts to more people.
Here is how The Grey Dog does it
New York City's Grey Dog shared a throwback photo of their staff from 1996. This fun photo drew many comments from both staff and customers who used to visit then.
This type of post makes your staff members the stars of your Instagram feed and shows them that you care about them. Moreover, customers are more easily able to relate to photos of people than with photos of food. Showing off your team helps your followers connect with your restaurant.
5. Share photos of customers
How does it help?
Much like user-generated content, sharing photos of customers enjoying your food, rather than just pictures of their food, is powerful social proof. These types of posts help customers picture themselves at your restaurant.
Make sure to ask customers for permission to take photos of them to share on social media. Get their social media handles so that you can tag them in your posts and boost your engagement.
Why Kyle's Kitchen is a good example
This Instagram post shows customers enjoying burgers and having a great time at Kyle's Kitchen. The women have smiles on their faces, and the food looks fantastic!
The same principles that we discussed in the last section apply here. This type of content helps your followers connect with your restaurant. When they see photos of customers enjoying a meal at your restaurant, they can easily picture themselves doing the same thing. It also makes the pictured customers feel appreciated, which will keep them coming back for more!
6. Talk about your restaurant's health and safety measures
Why is it important today?
Customer confidence in restaurants is down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best social media ideas for restaurants right now is to show customers how you're keeping them safe.
A stellar example from Hamburger Mary’s
Hamburger Mary's drag-inspired burger restaurant in Denver created this unique video to show off their COVID-19 safety measures in style. While they could've just posted photos of their rules or of someone wearing a mask, this video gets the message across in a much more memorable way.
The video demonstrates that customers and staff have to wear masks, customers can't mingle with others outside of their table, and that the restaurant conducts staff health checks. Check out 7shifts' Employee Health Check feature to keep your staff and customers safe.
7. Talk about social causes you support
Why is it important?
Sharing your restaurant's values is a terrific way to connect with customers. When a mission drives your restaurant, your restaurant is more than just a business in customers' eyes. It's a business that's trying to make a difference.
Don't be afraid to let your restaurant's values shine through by highlighting causes that your business supports on social media.
Here is how Clean Juice does it
Clean Juice showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd's death with this post. Besides supporting social issues, they also support a vision of a world that runs on organic food via their podcast.
8. Be creative
How does it help?
So much of hospitality marketing is about following trends and popular social media ideas for restaurants. However, the key to going viral and being memorable is breaking the mold and doing something different.
Here is how Bondi Sushi thinks outside of the box
Much like other sushi restaurants, New York City's Bondi Sushi posted content for International Sushi Day. However, their post was unlike anything other sushi restaurants were sharing.
It shows a family in the nude "wearing" sushi. It's not your typical social media photo; it's a work of art that stands out from the rest of the feed and makes people stop scrolling.
9. Engage with followers
Why is it important?
Engage with followers by responding to their comments and messages. Doing this regularly makes your social media channels a forum for discussion, community, and customer service, rather than just a billboard for your company. Use social media to gather feedback with which you can improve the restaurant.
Because not all restaurants take the time to engage with followers, doing this can make you stand out and increase customer loyalty. Solicit feedback with a call to action like "let me know what you think" or "comment below" in captions and videos.
How Westville does it
New York City's Westville typically includes a question in its caption for customers to answer. They don't stop there. They engage with customer comments as much as possible by responding to them or liking them.
Here's how to do it
Give something away to your social media followers through a simple contest. There are a few ways to do this. You could host the giveaway on your own or partner with another business to cross-promote each other.
What should you give away? It can be something as simple as a gift card, or an exclusive experience, like a romantic dinner for two on Valentine's Day. For the Valentine's Day example, you could partner with a local florist and include their flowers as part of the prize package.
Choose an image or video for the post that will grab people's attention. You could even include the text "giveaway" somewhere in the post's photo. Whatever you do, make sure that the creative matches your other posts' branding so that it doesn't appear unnatural or out of place.
In your caption, immediately let followers know that you're giving something away. Use #giveaway and #contest in the caption to increase the reach of your post.
Tell followers what they need to do to enter the contest. You could ask them to follow you (and your partner, if applicable) and tag a friend or two in the comments. This technique helps you grow your following and exposes your restaurant to friends of followers who will be inclined to enjoy your restaurant.
Alternatively, you could ask followers to enter the giveaway by sharing a post or Instagram Story. Let's say you're having a virtual pet Halloween costume contest to give away a gift card. You could ask followers to share photos of their dogs dressed up in cute outfits, post them on Instagram, tag your restaurant, and use the contest's hashtag. The post with the most likes wins the giveaway!
Before announcing a winner, make sure that the person met all of your entry requirements, like following your account.
Why Oath Pizza is a great example
Oath Pizza partnered with a plant-based meal delivery service to give away food from both businesses. They created a fun, simple video that flashes between their pizzas and dishes from their meal delivery partner.
In the caption, they use sun emojis to draw attention to the giveaway. They place simple instructions in the caption so that followers understand how to enter the contest. The entry requirements help increase their following and their partners' following. They also guarantee that the post will get lots of engagement by making liking the post a requirement for entry. They also give followers a way to increase their chances by sharing Oath Pizza's post in their Instagram Stories.
Takeaways: Shake up your social media presence with these social media ideas for restaurants
Restaurants need to be on social media. But because so many restaurants are on social media, it takes a lot to make people stop scrolling and pay attention to your content.
Make your posts memorable by sharing user-generated content, giving your staff some love, and sharing recipes. Don't forget to engage with customers in your comments and incorporate their feedback to improve your business.