Social media is a must for any business, but it is especially challenging if you’re in the food industry. Not only do you need to have a product that looks good on camera, you also have to follow through with great taste.

Master these two basic requirements, and you’ll have a far easier time nailing your social media strategy.

Of course, there are other things to take into account too. For example, you need to define your brand. This means your message should be authentic, and in tune with the kind of personality you want your target audience to know you for.

Are you sophisticated, casual, fun, or downright silly? Whatever you decide, social media is the perfect place to let this personality shine and connect with your followers.

To help you out, here are some ways to do social media marketing for restaurants right – I’ve also included an example for each. These restaurants are not only doing impressive work in the kitchen, but also in the world of digital marketing.

1. Make things interesting

People expect a lot of food photography from a restaurant’s social media account. If you go that route, it will get boring really fast. They already know what your food looks like because chances are they’ve eaten it before!

So, spice things up for your followers with posts that are related to your product but with an unexpected element.

This one from Bareburger is a great example of a crazy product idea that should elicit a few laughs.

2. Take your followers in the kitchen

Restaurant-goers are getting smarter by the day. They want to know what’s in their food, how it’s made, and if the eggs are ‘real’.

Set your customers at ease by giving them a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at food preparation and cooking. It should build trust and make a deeper connection with your regulars as well as the newcomers.

In PF Changs’ case, this Instagram post surely assured diners that their dumplings are handmade and served fresh daily.

3. Share fan mail

Your most satisfied and loyal customers are your best evangelists. They can even create amazing content for you. This is one of the best things that can happen to your business, and you should honor it when you see it.

If you’re lucky, some of your fans will also be creative people, and will likely use their art to make a shout-out to your awesomeness.

Take this gentleman, for example, who wrote a beautiful poem for O’Charley’s shared here on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

4. Give before you take

Let’s be honest. People are busy, and they need motivation to do something that will take more than five seconds.

This is especially true on social media. Yes, your customer enjoyed that new milkshake, but she might not love it to the point of putting everything on hold just so she can tweet about it.

That’s why rewards are so important. You have to give your customers a reason to do anything. A vintage shirt giveaway is how Jimmy Johns got people to share their best memories of the restaurant. 

Just like that, hundreds of people shared their stories.

5. Let them know what’s cooking

First-time customers will always appreciate if they could know what they to order before they even get to your restaurant. Giving them a ‘sneak peek’ of your specials with a social media post is one way to educate and entice a picky eater.

In the case of San Francisco-based Cala, they opted for a chalkboard display by the door while also posting it on Instagram:

6. Reply to your fans and followers

A genuine relationship with followers is a two-way street. Let your customers know you’re listening to them, by replying to their posts when they mention you.

Be sure to use social media management apps like Hootsuite and Brand24, which are great at tracking anyone who talks about your brand on the web.

The Coffee Bean does a great job at this, as seen on their most recent Twitter feed. It never fails to surprise and delight people, while earning their loyalty.

7. Use a trending topic

Something’s always trending in social media, and this is one of the best times to make a connection to your products. Using trending topics, and the hashtag that comes with them, are sure ways of gaining more followers in a short span of time.

Just remember to be timely – post while the topic is still the talk of the town, not hours after. Here’s one from Papa John’s when they used the Country Music Awards to run a random survey on their Twitter page:

8. Introduce your crew

Give your brand a face by introducing your employees. A simple post about a chef, a waitress, or a barista – anyone who serves customers every day would do the trick. They are the people behind your success, and they deserve a spot in the limelight.

As a business owner, your social media followers will appreciate the fact that you recognize your hard-working crew and value their contribution. Just like these chefs from Savannah’s upscale restaurant, The Grey:

9. Hashtags are important

As briefly mentioned earlier, whether you make your own or use a popular one, it’s important to use a hashtag especially on Instagram and Twitter.

Hashtags are like the SEO of social media. If a person has not heard about your brand, but is searching for things that you might offer, what hashtag would they use to find you?

That’s why Monteverde in Chicago uses a hashtag to let people know which loop in the city they are located.

Of course, a hashtag doesn’t always have to be about location – but it’s a good start.


10. Post the best food photos

It seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised how some restaurants neglect this vital piece of content in their social media pages. Food that looks so tasty on camera is an absolute must when posting on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Bonus points if you get a lovely shot of a customer enjoying the food!

This lovely photo from the Olive Garden, for instance, was perfectly captured to make anyone’s mouth water:

11. Find unhappy customers and talk to them

This might sound like a terrible idea, but it’s actually an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a lesson. If you take the conversation privately, you can ask the customer what went wrong and come up with a solution to prevent the same incident from happening.

This also lets your customers know that you care about them, and that you’re making an effort to do things better.

12. Reward people just for following you on social media

Whether you’re looking to increase your followers, or have a few thousand already under your belt, rewarding followers just for being there is always a great idea.

The reward can be anything from a discount or a free meal. The important thing is that it encourages repeat business, and makes your customers feel extra special, just like Papa Murphy’s giveaways on National Pizza Month:

13. Be consistent

Remember your brand’s personality? It’s important to stick to this idea, especially on social media where people can browse through your page’s entire history. Your social media pages should sound like it’s written by the same person who posted weeks ago.

With Instagram, it would also be great to use the same photo filter for photos and videos to get that uniform look. This one from Denny’s Instagram page maintains this kind of consistency throughout different photos.

14. Say even more with videos

If a photo paints a thousand words, a video can paint a million. Videos are great if you want to share more in-depth content like interviews, recipes, events, collaborations, and other exciting stuff going on for your brand.

This allows your followers to get a lot of information within a short amount of time. Take this video posted in Chipotle’s Facebook page, which educates followers about avocado:

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15. Say thank you for positive feedback

Never think that only negative feedback deserves a response. Glowing reviews and satisfied customers also need to be acknowledged, because they will be in turn become your greatest promoters.

It only takes a few seconds to reply and say thanks, or retweet or regram their posts, to share the love.

But that’s not all – here are three more bonus ideas to guarantee success in conquering social media marketing for restaurants.

16. Highlight your location

Give a tribute to your town or city by posting a popular tourist spot (or any place, for that matter) that defines where you are from. Most of the time, a brand’s identity can be closely tied to its home, and restaurants are no exception.

This post from Popeyes is an example of featuring its Louisiana roots where the company began its journey:

When people know where something is, they somehow get that there’s a story behind the brand.

17. Crowdsource product ideas

Don’t know what to call the new item on the menu? Your customers can help, if you’re willing to engage them.

Run a quick Twitter or Facebook survey and go with the winning vote, or throw in a giveaway for some of the participants to make it more interesting.

Your customers would be happy to feel like they’re part of the team, and that their opinions matter.

This Facebook poll from Wendy’s is one way to get valuable customer feedback, that can be used for market research or product development.

18. Use pop culture references for more interesting posts

Notice how people seem to suddenly be more interested when the topic at hand is Game of Thrones? Well, maybe not everyone, but you get the point.

Depending on your target audience, pick a popular song, TV show, sporting event, or comic book character, and tie it in with your product.

Then, sit back and watch your post comments pile up.

This one from Wingstop is a great example:

There’s a lot of noise in social media today, and it’s enough for people to want to tune out completely. However, if you are creative and sincere in posting great content, then you’ll eventually find the kind of followers you deserve.

When you are honest, consistent, creative, and generous, it doesn’t matter what strategy you take – you are sure to gain your customer’s trust and respect in the long run.

Daniel Tay

Posted by Daniel Tay

Daniel Tay is a content marketer and writer. As the founder of With Content, he helps companies to create quality content that resonates with their audience of choice. With over 5 years of experience in content strategy and marketing, his writing can be found on websites such as Hubspot, Search Engine Journal, and Tech in Asia. You can find Daniel on LinkedIn or Twitter.