Dining out has always been a huge part of socialising, so it’s no wonder that food and social media go hand in hand.

Because of this, restaurants and bars with a strong social media presence are often able to attract more guests than their competition each night.

If you want to learn how to utilise social media to build your brand and improve your bottom line, this guide is for you. Read on to find out:

  • Why should restaurants use social media?
    • To gain valuable customer insights
    • To create a strong brand
    • To respond to your critics
    • To run extremely targeted ads
  • Which social media platforms are best for restaurants?
  • How to get the most from your restaurant’s social media pages
    • Make the important information easy to find
    • Define your target audience
    • Create your brand voice
    • Focus on visuals
    • Make your food ‘Instagrammable’
    • Make your staff the heroes
    • Don’t be too promotional
    • Encourage interaction
    • Respond to all your customers (even the disgruntled ones)
    • Use data to refine your approach

Why should restaurants use social media?

As a restaurant owner, the last thing you need is another plate to spin. Between perfecting your menu, replenishing stock each day, and keeping your staff happy, you’ve got more than enough to think about without running a social media strategy.

However, in the digital age, the restaurants, cafés, and bars that make time to build up a loyal following on social media are invariably the most successful. That’s because a well-run social media presence is an extension of the guest experience that will have your customers craving your food every time they see one of your posts. Do this well and you’re sure to get more customers and become an established culinary presence in your city.

On top of this, there are plenty more reasons to invest in a social media strategy. Here’s a few:

To gain valuable customer insights

Once you establish a social media presence, one of the biggest benefits you’ll enjoy is the valuable customer insights that can help you perfect your menu without making expensive mistakes.

For example, instead of adding three new items to your menu, you can share photos of them on your social media pages instead and ask your fans to choose their favourite. If there’s a clear favourite, it’s a good indication it will be a hit on your menu.

These kinds of insights are a lot costlier to glean through trial and error. The ability to use social media as a testing ground for your kitchen’s new creations can be worth the effort alone.

To create a strong brand

Your social media presence is the perfect way to create a strong brand that will resonate with your target audience. For example, if you tailor your menu around healthy dishes made from organic produce, social media is the perfect way of spreading the word to local health-conscious foodies. Through behind-the-scenes pictures of your fresh produce and healthy eating tips they can apply in their own kitchen, you can become more than just a restaurant to your target audience and build a loyal following.

To respond to your critics

In the digital age, disgruntled customers will often turn to social media with any complaints they have about your restaurant before they mention anything to your staff. By nurturing a strong social media presence, you can respond to your critics in real time and get to the bottom of any problems before they develop any further.

By showing your human side and reaching out to guests who’ve had a less than ideal experience at your restaurant, you might well win over a disappointed customer. If you’re not active on social media, you’ll miss out on these opportunities.

To run extremely targeted ads

Through Facebook advertising, you can target an extremely specific niche. For example, if you run a vegetarian restaurant, you’re just a few clicks away from being able to target local Facebook users who follow Greenpeace and PETA. So, if you want to get your brand in front of your exact target audience for a relatively low cost, social media advertising is the way to go.

Which social media platforms are best for restaurants?

Not every social media platform was created equal. If you want to succeed online, you need to be aware of which social media platforms work best for promoting a restaurant, café, or bar.

As a restaurant with a physical location, you should focus your efforts on the social media platforms that allow you to target your specific location. For example, while posts featuring your food might do well on Pinterest, you’ll be wasting a lot of time getting in front of people who don’t live anywhere near your restaurant on this platform. It’s therefore best to avoid it.

Instead, focus your efforts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The most effective platform for you will depend on your target audience, with students and young professionals preferring Twitter and Instagram. If you want to paint your restaurant as a cool place to be, these platforms would be perfect.

However, Facebook is an almost universally used platform, so if you want to reach everyone in your local area, from students to grandparents, this is the platform to focus on.

How to get the most from your social media pages

Now it’s time to set up your social media accounts and get posting. Read on to find out how to get attention on your social media activity and successfully convert that into new customers.

Make the important information easy to find

Let’s start with the basics. When you set up your social pages, you should make sure all the important information — your address, opening hours, contact details, and website — are all easy for visitors to find.

Your end goal with social media is to get more customers through your door, and making sure the details people need to book a table at your restaurant are easy to find on your social pages is key to this.

Define your target audience

If you want your social media posts to have the biggest possible impact on your bottom line, you need to clearly define the people you want them to reach. For example, if you’re an affordable, family-oriented restaurant, then you’ll want to adopt a very different social media strategy to a high-end cocktail bar.

The goal is to make your target audience aware of your brand by producing social media content that appeals to them. If they engage with your Facebook or Instagram posts, it will only be natural for them to book a table and try you out.

If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to social media, the first thing you need to do is sit down and profile your ideal customer. Here are some questions that will help get you started:

  • How old are they?
  • How much money do they make?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What kind of culture do they engage with?
  • What other online influencers do they follow?
  • What kind of social media content do they already respond to?

Create your brand voice

Once you’ve defined your target audience and come up with your ideal customer profile, it’s time to use this information to create your brand voice. This is key to the way you present your business on social media, as it serves as the foundation of every post you make.

Your brand voice is simply the way in which you communicate to your customers. For example, Marks and Spencer and Aldi are both successful supermarket chains, but they both adopt a very different brand voice. If they each adopted the other’s brand voice but continued to sell the same products at the same prices, they would both quickly alienate their customer base.

In short, your brand voice should match up with your product. If you run a family-friendly restaurant, your customers will expect you to come across as upbeat and conversational on social media rather than dry and witty. If your online presence isn’t an extension of the kind of experience your customers have come to expect in-store, it won’t help your bottom line (and might even hurt it).

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to deciding on a brand voice. Start by looking at how successful restaurants that serve your cuisine from around the world approach social media for ideas. Pay attention to the tone they use.

How would you describe it? Formal and educational? Excitable and light-hearted? Conversational and witty?

Try it out yourself — does it feel like an accurate representation of your brand when you write that way?

It might take a bit of trial and error to land on a brand voice that you feel represents your brand and grabs your target audience’s attention. However, once you have it, you’ll find it easy to create social media posts that resonate with your ideal customers. Of course, as your restaurant develops, so will your brand voice, so don’t feel like you need to stick to the same tone as your business grows.

Focus on visuals

If you take one thing away from this guide, make sure it’s this: always include an image alongside your social media posts.

Why?

Well, Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement that those without, according to Buzzsumo. Moreover, tweets with images earn up to 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites, and 150% more retweets, according to Buffer.

So, if you want your social media posts to stand out from the crowds, make sure they’re accompanied by an image.

However, it’s important not to use any old image. A badly-lit and out-of-focus picture of your food might do more harm than good. If you don’t think a photograph is going to entice someone to come and try your food, don’t post it.

Luckily, the cameras on the latest smartphones are good enough to take incredibly appetising images of your best dishes. While it will help your brand if you can afford to hire a professional photographer to take photos for you, it’s definitely not necessary when you’re getting started. Read Convince and Convert’s guide to photography for social media to quickly get to grips with the basics and you’ll be taking fantastic photos with your iPhone in no time.

Attach a top-quality, relevant image to every one of your social media posts and you’ll be surprised about how much more interaction you get on social media.

Make your food ‘Instagrammable’

Now you know how effective imagery can be on social media, it’s time to reconsider the way you present your dishes. The more ‘Instagrammable’ your food, the more likely your customers are to share photos of it online and spread the word about your restaurant on social media themselves.

So, think about how you can present the same food and drink in a new, imaginative way. For example, investing in some creative glassware is a simple way of making your drinks more sharable, while picking up some stylish crockery and thinking carefully about how you arrange your food on it can make your customers much more likely to share it and be your brand ambassador.

Make your staff the heroes

On social media, people don’t want to interact with a faceless corporation — they want to engage with real people. The more personal you can make your social media updates, the better. And perhaps the best way of doing this is to make your staff the heroes.

So, don’t be afraid to reveal what’s going on behind-the-scenes at your restaurant. Share photos of your staff at work, highlight their achievements, and show your fans what a day at your restaurant is like. Assuming your staff all get along, this can be great way of growing a loyal following and humanising your brand. This can often be enough to set your restaurant apart from the competition. It’s also a great way of combating our next point…

Don’t be too promotional

If you only ever use your social media accounts to post adverts, people are quickly going to become disinterested and stop following you. In fact, ‘posting too many promotions’ was found to be the most annoying thing brands do on social media according to research by Sprout Social.

Being overly promotional on social media could therefore hurt your brand, as your followers might come to know you as ‘that restaurant that spammed my News Feed with ads’ and purposefully avoid you next time they’re looking for somewhere to eat.

While a purely self-promotional post can be effective every now and then, make sure you limit these to about once a week. Spend the rest of the time providing value to your followers through the rest of the tips we’ve listed in this guide.

Encourage interaction

Facebook and Twitter like content that generates lots of interaction, as it keeps people on their platform. So, when your posts have a track record of generating lots of likes, comments, shares, and retweets, each new thing you post will automatically be boosted by the platform’s algorithm so it is seen by more people.

To benefit from the way the major social media platforms’ algorithms are weighted, encourage interaction with your content whenever you can. Here’s a few simple ways to do this.

Firstly, think about how to generate more interaction on your usual updates. End your posts on a question whenever you can, and ask your fans to answer it in the comments section. Try and make the questions time sensitive if possible, as this will make it more likely to generate an interaction. For example, a restaurant might post something like ‘Chocolate fudge cake or banoffee pie — which should we add to the desert menu? Let us know in the comments and we’ll announce the winner tonight’.

Another great way to get your followers engaging with your social media content is to run a competition every so often. Simply tell people to share a post with their friends or followers for their chance to win a prize, such as half price off their bill or a free desert. Competition posts are a sure-fire way to earn a lot of engagements, so make sure you’re taking advantage of them to benefit from the social media platforms’ algorithms.

Respond to all your customers (even the disgruntled ones)

When people interact with your restaurant on social media, it gives you a unique opportunity to connect with them and turn them into a fan as well as just a customer. Be sure to respond to all the interactions you can with your customers, as this can help create a loyal fanbase.

However, you shouldn’t ignore your critics. If you receive negative feedback on one of your social media pages, it gives you the perfect opportunity to make amends for a bad experience. Try as best you can to repair any damage that’s been done. Showing your business’s human side can go a long way here, so make sure you give an honest apology to any disgruntled customers.

Use data to refine your approach

If you activate analytics on your social accounts, you’ll gain access to all sorts of key information that can help you get the most from your posts on social media.

Keep an eye on which of your posts get the most interactions, and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Test posting at different times of the day to see when you get the best responses. Try different formats and writing styles, posts with emojis and without.

As you become more experienced, run more tests, and gather more data, your posts are sure to improve. If you always follow the data, you’re sure to get the most from the time you invest in maintaining your social media presence. If you’re new to social media analytics, Hootsuite has great beginners guides to all Facebook and Twitter Analytics that are a great place to start.

 

So, there you have it: everything you need to know to create an appetite for food with social media. Follow these tips and you’ll know exactly how to utilise all the major social platforms to build up a loyal local fanbase and get more customers through your doors.

For more advice on improving the customer experience in your restaurant, take a look at our guide to designing a menu that does your dishes justice. Plus, if you want to find out how our wholesale catering equipment can improve your business, get in touch with a member of staff today at hello@allianceonline.co.uk.