Digital Marketing Musts for Restaurants

How the Food and Beverage Industry Can Tap into Social Media 

“The phone eats first.” If you’ve been out to brunch or tried any new restaurant hot spots in the last ten years, you’ve probably heard this phrase. It’s impossible to avoid. Facebook is ready to burst with Portrait mode pictures of delicious looking meals. Some restaurants have even altered their decor or plating to maximize the perfect Instagram shot! Gone are the days of the Michelin Guide and the New York Times Food Section as the supreme tastemakers in the food and beverage industry. Regardless of how you feel, it is clear that a major part of any restaurant’s marketing strategy needs to be focused on social media and digital ads.

The world of digital marketing can seem difficult to approach for a small business. However, it actually puts everyone on the same playing field. Whether you’re a high end restaurant in Washington, D.C. or a hole-in-the-wall in New Orleans, there is no cost to sign up for high traffic social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Google Business.

How Do I Create Content?

Social media is an incredible tool to market your restaurant. Your Instagram feed is a constantly evolving combination menu and billboard that lives inside of potential customers’ pockets. You can use your posts and grid to create a brand identity followers will want to be a part of. This is a place to be aspirational; what kind of dishes and what kind of people best represent your bar or restaurant?

Of course, you should include close ups of appetizing looking appetizers, the most mouth-watering cheese pulls, the greenest fresh salads and condensation falling down the side of your craft cocktails. That’s a given and, more often than not, the main draw of your restaurant. However, also include images of your decor and space. Rooftop bar? Show off that incredible breathtaking view of the Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay. Pet-friendly? Nothing performs as well on social media as a picture of a cute dog. 

Pictures are great, especially now that everyone carries around a professional level camera at all times, but video is king. TikTok videos pull in more eyes and Instagram is directing most traffic to its Reels feature through their algorithm. One of the fastest ways for small accounts to grow is by posting regular Reels. Reels are a fantastic way to break through to the Explore page. Unlike pictures, which rely on Likes and Comments to go viral, Reels grow through Views which are much easier to collect in the current form of the algorithm. If people like your content and see you post consistently, they’ll give you a follow, which will turn into recurring customers.

It’s important to vary your content. People get bored easily and the same pictures of the same food day after day will get old quickly. That’s why you should always use a Content Calendar. With a Content Calendar, you can plot out posts in advance and make sure you don’t post too much similar content in a row. There can be a fine line between developing your brand voice and being repetitive. Content Calendars can also help you design intricate grid patterns that look professional. 

Grid patterns are not difficult to create. However, they require planning and attention to detail.

How Can I Promote Specials?

Similar to video, Stories on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and, possibly soon, TikTok are a useful way to drive engagement. The algorithm of each social network is designed to keep people liking and tapping at an endless stream of content. Since stories play automatically one after another, it’s no surprise that Stories are a preferred form of content for social media.

And stories can be especially useful for restaurants and bars that have daily specials. It helps keep your followers engaged and makes them feel like they belong to an exclusive community—but only if they check back every day. A case study of exclusivity by way of social media can be found with Chain, a pop-up restaurant from Chef Tim Hollingsworth and writer/actor B.J. Novak. Through irreverent posts and surprise “drops”, Chain turned parody versions of Chili’s and T.G.I. Friday’s into the hottest culinary moment in Los Angeles, attracting the attention of Mindy Kaling, John Mayer, and more A-List celebrities. The key was the limited availability of their food, which was only accessible by ordering via Instagram Stories. 

You may not have the star power of Chain, but you can draw inspiration from their marketing plan to create demand for daily or weekly specials at your restaurant. Additionally, reposting Stories is one of the best ways to engage with your customers.

How Can I Engage my Customers?

Every business thrives off returning customers. Brand loyalty is key. The proof is in the pudding with the rabid fan bases of tech companies like Apple and Tesla. Now, you don’t need a new iPhone every day, but you need to eat every day. Social media can be used to create the same kind of passion and loyalty with people who live in your local area and tourists that visit from out of town.

Word of mouth is still very much a thing—it’s just digital these days. You’ll want to make sure your business is verified on review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews, and Facebook to give thanks to people who leave positive reviews and get feedback with those who leave not-so-positive reviews about your restaurant. Checking in from time to time and replying to past guests is a good way to boost your local SEO.

Finally, you want to showcase these reviews! Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself a little bit. A follower who previously hadn’t tried a signature cocktail at your bar might see a positive comment on Facebook and want to come in and try it for themselves. 

This goes double for UGC (or User Generated Content). Remember, “The phone eats first”? We definitely recommend a professional photoshoot every so often, but you have hundreds of potential photogs paying you every single day. Giving them a shoutout by reposting their picture on your feed or in your stories is a great way to foster a relationship and keep ‘em coming back for more.

Need More Time?

Meerkat Media Group has a vast range of experience with everything from daily content creation to complete brand marketing. If you’re looking for guidance on how to boost your profile on social media, we’re here to help. Contact us to learn how to take your digital marketing to the next level!