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7 Successful Examples of Social Media Marketing for Restaurants

Brian O'Connor

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He has worked at Morgan Stanley, Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.

Owning a restaurant is challenging but rewarding work. You have to juggle ordering ingredients, streamlining your menu, and keeping your food options fresh and exciting—and that’s just to start with. On top of these logistics, there are tons of other hats you have to wear on a regular basis: chief among them is managing social media for your restaurant.

Social media for small businesses tends to frighten most entrepreneurs who don’t work within the space professionally. And with regard to social media for restaurants, there are even more factors to consider—most of which can seem a bit daunting. You have to determine what content to post, how to write about it, and how to make sure your photos are #foodporn worthy. Running social media marketing for restaurants can be a full-time job when you factor in all of the behind-the-scenes work that seems to go into it.

Although social media for restaurants can seem like yet another major task to put on your to-do list, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make small changes to your social media marketing plan that reap huge rewards. The important elements of the best social media marketing for restaurants are, in fact, fairly small and easy to maintain. Here’s what you need to know to get started on a social media plan for your restaurant, as well as a few leading examples from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to provide some inspiration.

Why Social Media for Restaurants Is Important

Before we dive into the best examples of social media for restaurants, let’s examine why social media marketing is important in the first place—especially for restaurants and cafes. Social media marketing for restaurants matters because it gives you the chance to show off your menu through stunning visuals, stay on the minds of your clients, and create a positive impression of your company with would-be patrons. Great social media for restaurants relies on a strategy that combines all three (and more!). These are the best places to focus on when you’re getting started on your plan.

1. Social Media Lets You Show off Your Menu

The restaurant industry is as much experience-driven as it is visually oriented. If you want to sell people on how great your food tastes, you need to sell them on how it looks. Social media lets you sell the sizzle so you can sell the (literal) steak.

First, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got great photos of your food. Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner food stylist by taking photos of your food in well-lit, scenic parts of your restaurant. And, most importantly, be sure to dress your plate in the most appetizing way possible. Consider this your visual advertisement of how great your food is, and plan appropriately.

Once you have beauty shots of your latest special, make sure you’re writing about your menu items in a way that highlights what makes them amazing. Don’t be shy about going into detail: After all, you want your followers to get as close to tasting the food as they can while still looking at a screen. If you’re stumped on what to write, a good tip is to write about your specials the same way you’d train your front-of-house staff to talk about them.

2. Social Media Gives You Insights Into Your Clientele

Social media for restaurants offers more than just the opportunity to promote your establishment. It also (and perhaps more importantly) provides you with a better glimpse into who your core customers are. Frequent posts on your accounts will give your followers a consistent reason to stay engaged with your restaurant.

From there, you can start to gain a better perspective into what they like, what they don’t, and how they interact with you online. This can be done through measuring the likes on a post, the number (and context) of comments, and whether or not your followers tag their friends when leaving a reply to what you publish. The more of these three interactions, the better.

You can also use social media analytics tools to dive deeper into the data on how well your pages perform. Every social media platform provides different readouts of the same basic data points: impressions (how many people saw your post), engagements (how many people liked, commented, or shared your post), and likes (a subsection of engagements). These analytics tools also allow you to see whether you’re gaining or losing followers, as well as your top-performing posts. From there, you can try to emulate your more successful posts in the future while phasing out underperforming content.

social media for restaurants

3. Social Media Lets You Promote on the Cheap

Once you’ve built a consistent (and awesome!) social media presence, you’re ready to take your social media marketing efforts to the next level through advertising. Gone are the days where you’d have to take out an ad in a local magazine, newspaper, or television network. With the advent of social media, you can not only deliver ads to a more specific audience than you could with older distribution methods, you can also advertise for a fraction of what a 30-second spot might cost you from your local TV provider.

Social media marketing can provide a major boost to your restaurant. You can advertise to gain followers (and thus post content that reaches a wider organic audience), promote specials or event nights, or even solicit people to book a table right from within the social platform. You can pinpoint your advertising to people in specific cities, zip codes, tastes in food, or even followers of your competitors’ restaurants. And if you select the right-sized audience for your ads, you can usually maximize your budget without spending a fortune.

Of course, if you’re not ready to venture into paid social advertising for your restaurant, you can always test the waters by promoting to your own followers for free. Make sure to create Facebook events for special occasions at your restaurant and promote them during the drum-up to the big night. This way, you’ll get a sense of what kinds of promotions work for you, and which don’t.

4. Social Media Lets You Talk to Your Clientele

Running a restaurant is a people-centric job, even if you don’t always have enough time to drop by every table and ask how your customers are enjoying their meal. Social media can help make this essential element of your job easier: being engaged with reviewers on Yelp and Google and commenters on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can make your customers feel appreciated for taking the time to keep up with your brand online.

Replying to reviewers and spurring conversations with fans can be a great strategy, but it’s crucial to do so in the right way. If you react poorly to negative reviews, you can come across as defensive. Similarly, if you respond to every comment on a social post, you risk sounding over-eager. It’s best to keep your comments informative: provide answers to questions about your restaurant, offer to talk to negative reviewers in private over email or a direct message. Be sure to look engaged with your accounts without conducting your business in broad daylight.

The Most Successful Examples of Social Media for Restaurants

There’s plenty to learn from looking at class-leading accounts in action. Here are a few standout examples of social media marketing for restaurants that have mastered the art of creating a digital presence.

1. Sweetgreen – Instagram

Sweetgreen has perfected offering crowd-pleasing food alongside a stellar social media presence. The salad chain’s Instagram account offers beautiful photos of their seasonal menu items, as well as stunning portraits of their staff. Sweetgreen’s social posts regularly garner a couple thousand likes and a flood of social comments—both of which help grow their online following as well as their customer base.

The key takeaway: Look at Sweetgreen’s photo composition, coloring, and lighting. Each image is distinct, but uses the same filtering and photography style to create cohesion across each post.

2. The Good Batch – Instagram

The Good Batch is a small bakery in Brooklyn, NY with a cozy interior and a local catering operation. They’re best known for their small pastries and cookies, which are featured often on their Instagram account. Their account features gorgeous shots of their products, both inside the shop and in front of iconic places across New York City.

The key takeaway: The Good Batch is a great example of social media marketing for restaurants because it highlights the products, the shop, and the company’s connection to its neighborhood. Each of these content types are tied together through excellent photography and fun, engaging copy.

3. Kogi BBQ – Twitter

The Kogi BBQ food truck roams the streets of Los Angeles and Orange County, serving up a Korean barbecue-inspired burritos, tacos, and other Southern California staples. Their Twitter account serves as the best place to track down where one of their three trucks is parked for the lunch and dinner rush, letting customers know where to find them in real time. Kogi BBQ’s Twitter account is straight to the point—it focuses heavily on truck locations, and is light on photos and videos.

The key takeaway: Kogi BBQ uses Twitter to give its customers exactly what they want: info on where to find food trucks near them. The channel offers this information up quickly, and in an easy-to-read format. If you’re in the food truck business, this is a great template for how to run your Twitter account.

4. YO! Sushi – Facebook

YO! Sushi’s Facebook page blends status updates about new menu items and seasonal specials with photos of their locations and patrons. They use fun, funny copy to help promote daily specials and newer efforts, like their kids menu. YO! Sushi makes the most of what Facebook’s greatest strengths are for restaurants—a platform for reaching customers about any and all company-related news, whether it’s new menu items, or the grand opening of a new location.

The key takeaway: YO! Sushi highlights a wide array of its events and menu items, which is great on a platform like Facebook. Unlike Instagram and Twitter, which are designed to be more specific for photo and text posts respectively, Facebook’s platform is more versatile for longer posts and topics that go beyond food shots and quick text updates.

5. Hodad’s – Facebook

Hodad’s is a burger joint in San Diego that puts their strong community ties at the forefront of their Facebook account. The restaurant features photos posted by customers frequently, while also promoting menu staples and seasonal favorites. Plus, Hodad’s does a great job of promoting in-house events and special evenings at the restaurant, encouraging customers to come back often.

The key takeaway: Hodad’s uses Facebook to connect with their community, which is one of the major strengths Facebook provides to restaurants with a presence on the platform.

6. Hopewell Brewing Co. – Instagram

Hopewell Brewing Co. is a craft brewery and taproom space in Chicago. The brewery’s beautifully designed taproom space and stunning can artwork is Instagram gold. Hopewell does an excellent job of highlighting their new beer releases with great product photography, and shows off the natural beauty of their taproom with equal attention to detail. The brewery has become a neighborhood staple since opening, and their Instagram account serves as a reminder for followers to drop by and try their new brews.

Here for you today. We’ll be open normal hours for the 4th of July! 4-11pm 😎

A post shared by Hopewell Brewing (@hopewellbrewing) on

The key takeaway: Hopewell blends beautiful photos with a compelling call-to-action (visiting the taproom for an event, or just for a beer).

7. Wendy’s – Twitter

The official Wendy’s Twitter account serves up plenty of snark. This approach is perhaps one of the riskier bets that any restaurant—let alone a massive food chain—could consider on social media. Most restaurateurs would do well by being a bit more conservative in their approach to social, but the brand’s blend of humor and mastery of internet culture provides it with a wealth of free advertising on Reddit and elsewhere. Whether you love or hate their approach, it’s incredibly effective.

The key takeaway: Wendy’s does a killer job of resonating with their customers—particularly the younger set who appreciate the company’s ability to incorporate internet humor without it sounded overly forced. Their strategy’s not easy to replicate, but it’s easy to take inspiration from their boldness and incorporate a little lightheartedness into your own strategy.

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Whether you’re just starting social media marketing for restaurants, or you’re looking to reboot your existing efforts, there are plenty of approaches you can take that will provide a big lift for a small amount of work. But no matter which strategy you use, make sure it’s authentic to your brand, approachable for your customers, and manageable for your personal workload.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian O'Connor

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He has worked at Morgan Stanley, Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.

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