By India Dowley
In today's digital era, Instagram has emerged as a powerful marketing tool for restaurants. Its visually engaging platform allows you to showcase your culinary creations and unique atmosphere to a wide audience.
As a restaurant owner or marketing director, mastering Instagram is crucial to enhancing brand awareness, attracting more followers and boosting bookings. Here, our in-house strategy team shares essential tips, tricks and real-life examples from Michelin guide restaurants to help you craft the perfect Instagram strategy for your restaurant.
Craft your unique brand story
To succeed on Instagram, start by defining your restaurant's distinctive brand story. Highlight what sets your establishment apart and the dining experience you offer. Showcase signature dishes, interior design, team members and behind-the-scenes moments that resonate with your target audience. Consistently communicate your restaurant's identity to create a strong and recognisable brand presence on the platform.
IRL: London’s sketch captivates Instagram users with its artsy decor and extravagant interiors. The iconic ‘Pink Room’ and ‘Gallery’ are unique to them and transport followers into an otherworldly dining experience, reflective of the restaurant's off-the-wall, creative personality.
Enhance visual appeal with high-quality images
Given Instagram's visual nature, high-quality images are essential to capture and retain your audience's attention. Invest in professional photography or use high-resolution images that showcase your dishes in their best light. Ensure the visuals are well-lit, aesthetically pleasing and align with your restaurant's style and theme.
IRL: Atelier Crenn in San Francisco uses beautiful images to illustrate their intricate dishes. Elegant plating and attention to detail create an allure that compels Instagram users to experience the restaurant's culinary masterpieces for themselves.
Use hashtags strategically
Hashtags play a crucial role in increasing the discoverability of your restaurant's content on Instagram. Research and use relevant and trending hashtags that resonate with your target audience. Consider creating a branded hashtag for your restaurant to encourage user-generated content and foster a sense of community.
Sequel says: Use between 3-5 hashtags per post. We advise a mix of ‘relevant’ (describing the subject matter of the post) and ‘community’ (tapping into trends or reaching a specific group of people) hashtags. Avoid overly popular hashtags with over one million associated posts as you’re unlikely to be discovered among the noise. The sweet spot tends to be those with under 100,000 associated posts, but the more targeted, the better. Be sure to keep analysing your ‘reach from hashtags’ in each post, so you can learn what’s working best and tweak as necessary.
Engage your audience and foster community
Engagement is key on Instagram. Respond promptly to comments and address inquiries, and thank people for positive feedback. Use interactive features like polls and question stickers to involve your followers and create a sense of community.
IRL: Dishoom has mastered the art of engaging its Instagram followers through cultural storytelling. By sharing captivating images of their dishes, along with anecdotes that transport followers to the bustling streets of Mumbai, they’ve created a loyal following of foodies and culture lovers.
Showcase your team and culture
Instagram provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the people behind your restaurant's success. Share photos and stories featuring chefs and front-of-house staff to humanise your brand. Highlight your restaurant's culture, values and dedication to service par excellence.
Sequel says: Make use of Story Highlights to save stories like this, meaning any new followers can easily catch a glimpse behind your doors.
Leverage Instagram Stories for focused messaging
Instagram Stories offer a dynamic way to share daily specials, behind-the-scenes moments, and limited-time offers. Utilise stickers, location tags, and hashtags in your Stories to enhance discoverability and boost engagement.
IRL: Bangkok’s Gaggan Anand's Gaggan expertly leverages Instagram Stories to captivate its audience with culinary creativity. The restaurant's renowned chef, Gaggan Anand, uses Stories to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of the innovative dishes he creates, making followers feel like they are on a gastronomic journey with him. This immersive storytelling keeps their audience engaged and excited about the restaurant's ever-evolving menu.
Promote special events and promotions
Keep your followers engaged and entice new customers by announcing special events, seasonal promotions and time-sensitive offers through your Instagram posts and Stories. Create a sense of urgency to encourage followers to visit your restaurant for these exclusive experiences.
Sequel says: We know you don’t want to cheapen your brand by announcing lots of discounts and offers, but a weekly or monthly promotion that’s presented in a sophisticated way, such as text overlaid on a beautiful image, can really help to boost bookings.
Embrace the power of user-generated content (UGC)
Encourage customers to become brand ambassadors by sharing their dining experiences on Instagram. Repost UGC to give guests a sense of recognition and build trust and authenticity for potential visitors.
IRL: Rome's renowned trattoria, Taverna Trilussa, uses heartwarming images of satisfied diners savouring traditional Roman dishes, fostering a sense of community and attracting new guests.
Encourage user engagement and competitions
Boost engagement by encouraging your followers to participate in competitions, polls or challenges related to your restaurant. Offer incentives like discounts, freebies or special dining experiences to winners. User-generated content from such competitions can further expand your restaurant's online presence.
Sequel says: Competitions are a great way to expand your reach by asking people to follow you, like your post, share it and tag several friends to win.
Collaborate with local Influencers and food bloggers
Partner with local influencers and food bloggers who have a relevant and engaged audience. Collaborative promotions and reviews can introduce your restaurant to new followers and potential customers. Always choose influencers whose content aligns with your restaurant's image and values.
Sequel says: Consider ‘micro influencers’ over big names – sometimes those with 5-20k followers have higher engagement and a more trusted following.
Monitor analytics and insights
Track the performance of your Instagram posts using the platform's analytics and insights tools. This data can provide valuable information about your audience demographics, peak engagement times and the success of various types of content. Use these insights to refine your Instagram strategy.
Sequel says: Select a few key metrics to track, rather than getting bogged down in detail. We suggest monitoring engagement, follower growth and reach – they’ll paint a clear picture of what your fans are doing.
Respond to reviews and feedback
Instagram serves as a platform for customers to share their experiences and opinions. Respond promptly and professionally to both positive and negative reviews or comments. Engaging with your audience shows that you value their feedback and are committed to providing excellent customer service.
Sequel says: Use these reviews as future Instagram content. Take a positive snippet and make a simple graphic/card in a programme like Canva, and share it as a post.
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