Social Media Marketing for Restaurants: The Basics

  • August 24, 2019
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Restaurateurs, if you aren’t part of the social media marketing for restaurants trend yet then we need to have a conversation.


Because you are missing out!  Social media marketing for restaurants should be a huge part of your marketing strategy. Not only are your competitors already on social media, so are your most important people – your customers.  Everyone, from every walk of life, is on social media these days. And you’re missing out on a ton of free publicity by not having your place of business on social media.

What is the draw of social media exactly?

Contrary to what they say about people being glued to their phones and not interacting with one another, social media is all about interaction.  With the touch of a button, you can stay in touch with friends and family across the globe, see what other people are doing, learn about events in your area, and get involved with all types of communities on and offline.  Every like, comment, reaction, and retweet is an interaction with someone else.

That’s great for people, but why do you need social media marketing for restaurants?

Being on social media gives you a chance to interact with your customers and keep your business on the front of their minds when they aren’t even there.  By having a platform on social media, you give your customers the ability to leave reviews and comment, share photos of special events in their life and mentioning your establishment as a place to celebrate.

Simply put, social media marketing for restaurants is the digital version of what you already do every day – talk and communicate with your customers.

Alright, I’m sold, so where do I start?  

Social media is a rapidly expanding industry that has news apps coming and going every day.  This can be a little overwhelming, so we’ll just stick to the big-player platforms for this blog.  But once you get the basics down, feel free to experiment with other apps and platforms – you never know what will be the next big thing!

In this blog, we will cover the basics of social media marketing for restaurants including the best social media platforms that are best for your business, what you should be posting, and how to grow your followers.  

So let’s get moving.

Step 1: What Platforms to Be On

As a restaurant, your top three platforms are going to be: Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business.


social media marketing for restaurantsImage credit: Wikimedia Commons

Facebook is the big one.  It has the largest and most diverse audience of any platform out there and not having one is kind of weird, like mayonnaise on your french fries kind of weird.

Aside from its huge audience base, Facebook also gives you the most options for interaction. Customers can leave a review on your page, check-in that they were at your location using their smartphone, view your menu or visit your website, upload photos to your page, tag you in those photos, and reach out to you through messenger with questions.  

If you are new to the basics of social media marketing for restaurants, this is the best platform to start with.


Facebook may be the big player in the game but as a restaurant, it is a HUGE mistake to overlook Instagram.  The platform is entirely photo-based, and did you know that food photos are consistently ranked as one of the highest trends on their platform? Yes, they are also responsible for the obnoxious trend of people photographing their food instead of eating it – but now you can use it to your advantage!  

The basis of Instagram is to take photos and post them for people to see.  People use tags, basically search terms with a # symbol in front called a hashtag, to sort and categorize their photos. You can search for specific tags to make your content easier to find.  

social media marketing for restaurantsTake a look at the hashtag game from Atlanta Foodie, @peachyatoit

You can even use the GPS function on your phone to track the physical location of where your photo was taken using Instagram Places.  Someone posts a picture of their friend and family celebrating their birthday at your restaurant and like magic their photo is automatically tagged at your location.

Google My Business

So if we want to be technical, Google My Business is not a social media platform, but it is important for your digital marketing presence and is especially crucial when it comes to social media marketing for restaurants.

Google My Business is a free online toolset through Google that allows business owners to mark their business on Google maps, allow photos of that business to be tagged through GPS data and, most importantly, it’s what enables your customers to use Google reviews.

The first thing anyone does when they hear about a new place to grab lunch is to pull it up on Google and look at the reviews.  So make sure your business is on it! This will also help improve your Google search rankings – where your business shows up in the list of a Google search.

Now that we’ve discussed what platforms you should be posting on, let’s move on to step two.

Step 2: Content

Content is the meat of social media marketing, it’s your posts, your photos, status updates, anything that you put in front of your audience. And as the saying often goes, ‘content is king’

The best way to grow and retain your audience is to post quality content.

What should I post about?

You can’t just post things all willy-nilly, there needs to be a strategy behind it. Posting the same kind of content over and over again will cause your audience to lose interest and unfollow you.  You need to keep things fresh!

At LYFE Marketing we suggest that you split your content up by the ‘rule of thirds’ which is as follows:

  • ? of Content Should Be Sales Posts: This is content that directly promotes getting business to your restaurant, kind of like an ad.  You can post pictures of your most popular dishes, advertise your drink specials, promote your catering or event services. You can even share simple things like where you’re located or the best way to get in touch with you.
  • ? of Content Should Be Share Posts: Content that is shared from other sources like local events you’re participating in, a review that ran in the local paper or blog, or maybe you’ve partnered up with a local business and want to push some traffic to their site, you can share an article about the history or culture behind your food, etc.
  • ? of Content Should Be Brand Posts: This can be anything from customer reviews, to photos of your food with a caption, funny jokes, quotes, facts about the food you serve or the story behind your restaurant, even fun videos with your staff.

In social media marketing for restaurants, it is critical that you don’t overlook the importance of share and brand posts.

Many businesses make the mistake of posting far too many sales posts.  Yes, sales are important, but the approach of social media marketing for restaurants is that you are having a conversation with your audience. Speak to them, not at them.

That’s great but I’m a chef, not a designer! How do I make my content look good?

How does anyone become good at anything?  They study.

A good chunk of the social media marketing for restaurants is going to be looking at the social media accounts of your competitors and other restaurants that you admire.  What posts have the most likes and shares? Are there any common themes or styles that you notice? Keep a list of design elements you notice that is resonating with the audience and work them into your own content.

Images, Images, Images

social media marketing for restaurantsImage credit: Instagram user @atleatstv

Did you know #foodporn is the largest tag on Instagram? It has over 155 million posts!  

So don’t skimp out on some premium photos of your dishes.  Social media marketing for restaurants lives and dies by the quality of their photos.  If you have the ability to get a professional photographer to come in, do it. If you can’t, here are a few tips to take some killer shots with your phone:

  1. Make it bright:  Bright, colorful images are more pleasing to the eye and catch attention better than dark, shadowy ones (save the mood lighting for your dining room).
  2. Work that angle: Straight-on shots are fine but really common.  Try taking the photo looking straight down, or put the camera right at a level with the table edge.  Play around with your space and see what you come up with.
  3. High rez is best rez:  You want those photos to be as big and in as high a resolution as possible, that way any resizing or touch-ups you have to do will be easier.
  4. Filters:  Most phones come with several filter options and the ability to do the most basic of touch-ups with brightness and contrast.  Explore what options are available on your device and see what magic you can work through that lens.

And don’t forget your number one source of free images – your customers.

Like we said before, everyone takes photos of their food, so use it to your advantage.  Make sure you put up a sign encouraging visitors to take shots of their plates and include your business’s username and a hashtag that they can include. Search for that hashtag on Instagram and voila, free images!

Another great source is food bloggers. These are people who regularly post food images of the places they’ve eaten at.  You can think of them as social media food critics and an important part of social media marketing for restaurants. They can post these images to literally thousands of users. User utfoodie, a foodie blogger in Utah, has 37.9k followers who see her photos!  The amount of free publicity a restaurant gets from just one of her photos is mind-blowing. 

social media marketing for restaurantsAnother drool-worthy shot from @peachyatoit.

So don’t hesitate to reach out to local bloggers in your area. Just search your town with the word foodie and see who pops up.  Invite them in for a discount meal and ask them to feature your food in a post.

Just make sure that whatever you do you take our suggestion and always credit the user.

It’s the number one rule of social media etiquette, don’t steal people’s stuff.  Your audience will have no issue with you reposting or using their images so long as you give credit where it’s due.  Plus, using the images of your customers gives the added benefit of showing your audience that you do pay attention to what they are posting and saying about you, which just encourages people to share more photos.


social media marketing for restaurantsWe made this drink special banner using Crello.

Go on to any Instagram or Facebook account and you will see cute little graphics of inspirational quotes or promotions for a giveaway or sale.  Did you know you can do them too?

There are plenty of free design tools at your disposal to spruce up a nice image with some killer text and a nice graphic or two. Canva and Crello are two of our favorites at LYFE Marketing; sign up for a free account and start using your inner artist.

Should I be posting at a specific time?

You may get the urge to hit that publish button as soon as your post is completed, but hold on a minute! Just like creating content, there has to be a methodology behind when you post.

A general rule of thumb is to post when people aren’t working – so early in the morning, around lunchtime, and the early evening.  As a restaurant, you want to consider meal times when posting. Got a killer lunch special? Post about it around 11:30am. Have a great happy hour deal?  Post it at 5:00pm. Consider what times bring you the most customers and make sure your content is posting during those hours.

Step 3: Building a Following

So you’ve got the accounts, you’ve made the content, now you just need to get it seen.  You need followers!

There two main tactics to accruing more followers: targeted following and engagement.  Make sure to use both of them to build those follower numbers.

Targeted Following

Targeted following is exactly what it sounds like, following the right kind of people.  You can do this several ways.

The most common is to follow hashtags that are relevant to your industry.

For example a burger place may want to search for #burgers #hamburgers #americanfood #bestburger #fries, etc.  Here’s a tip: Instagram has this nifty little feature in their search bar that will display tags that are closely related to or commonly used with the tag you are searching for.  Then the highest performing posts (most likes, comments, retweets, etc.) with that tag will show up first. Click on the post or tweet, then click the on the number of likes it has.  This will pull up a list of users who have liked the post. Follow them!

As a brick and mortar business, it’s also important to consider location when searching hashtags. Most major cities have their own hashtags, #nyc, #atlanta, #LA, but even some smaller towns can have their own tags.  If you want to get really specific, you can also target users using the Instagram places feature we mentioned earlier.  To do this type in the name or address of your business and select ‘places’ instead of ‘tags’ on the menu below. This will pull up photos that were tagged with the GPS function of a users phone. Click on those photos and follow the people who like them.

social media marketing for restaurantsThis is what places looks line in the Instagram mobile app.  Places is an important part of social media marketing for restaurants.

Another good tactic, especially if you are just starting out, is to follow your competitors’ followers. Just make sure that you are following the people who have liked their recent posts, as they have a higher chance of following you back since they were recently active.

While targeted following is a great way to get you started, be cautious, mass following can come off as spammy.  An unspoken rule of social media is that you want to have more followers than followings. So make sure once a week or so you clear out people who have not followed you back.


We’d be lying if we said social media marketing for restaurants wasn’t a numbers game.  There is a certain weight given to the number of followers an account has, it’s like digital street cred.  But you should know that numbers aren’t everything. A metric that is equally important is engagement. Your content means nothing if no one is interacting with it. A small engaged audience is far more valuable than a large, silent one.

So make sure to post content that encourages a response from your audience, these are typically brand and share type posts.  Ask questions, spark a debate, run a poll, ask followers to submit photos for the chance to win a gift card or free dessert. Remember – social media is a conversation, so start talking!

Here’s a great piece of engaging content we did for a bagel shop client. (And the answer is toast, of course!)

social media marketing for restaurants

Engagement is also a two-way street.  So when a customer posts a comment or a review, respond to them.  If they took the time to leave some words on your Facebook post or Instagram photo, the least you can do is answer them.

Don’t slack on it either, social media is a fast-paced environment and things will get lost in the shuffle. At LYFE we make sure to block out time every day to monitor client accounts and respond to comments and reviews.  Pick a time during the day when things are slow and you can dedicate your attention to your followers. They will pay you back in kindness and bring far more value to your business.

Next up is doing influencer marketing. Did you know that in the year 2022, this industry is forecasted to reach between $5 to $10 billion? It’s actually one of the trending marketing strategies these days. That’s probably why local restaurants now are reaching out to local social media influencers to promote their restaurants and entice their followers to check out their stores. This is especially true for start-up restaurants that want to raise awareness for their opening.

Use these two strategies of targeted following and engagement consistently and watch those followers’ numbers climb up!

We should note that these strategies can and should be used across all your social media platforms, however, Facebook is a ‘pay-to-play’ platform, meaning it costs money to get your content and business seen by the right people.  But don’t worry – we’ve got your back!

So let’s recap

We’ve covered a lot of information here, and this is only the beginning, but the key things you need to take away are:

  • The social platforms that are best for your business are going to be: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • You should be posting content with clear bright images of your dishes to get those mouths watering!
  • Don’t leave it just at food – tell your customers the story behind your business, impress them with food facts, make funny puns, ask questions, and tell them about what’s going on in the community. Be a source of information that they seek out with your content.
  • Talk to them.  Respond to comments and reviews, like and share photos and posts that they tag your business in.  Remember, social media is a conversation.
  • Follow, follow, follow. Keep a list of relevant hashtags and accounts that you regularly follow from.
  • Remember to look for your location on Instagram and see what photos people have posted.
  • Remember to unfollow, too many followings versus followers is a big social media faux pas.
  • And last, of all, remember patience and consistency. Social media is a long-term marketing strategy with a big-time payoff.  You are building a relationship of trust with your audience, that takes time, but if you keep at it people will soon be coming to you.

We hope this has been a helpful crash course in the basics of social media marketing for restaurants.  Once you get these basics down, we encourage you to keep learning about new platforms and strategies to grow your business.  Staying at the forefront of marketing is how your business stays on top!

And don’t forget our social media marketing company also offers comprehensive social media marketing services to help your business thrive. So if you haven’t implemented a social media marketing campaign as we mentioned at the start of this blog, then contact us to learn more about how to get started. We’ll walk you through it.

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