Before the explosion of the internet, restaurants (and all industries for that matter) could stick to what they know and what they’re best at, and could succeed. But now, thanks to TikTok, IGTV, and influencers, the digital marketing arena is now where the battle for success takes place.
We know, we know. You run a restaurant. You don’t have time to play the social media game, or even learn the rules. But the tough love reality is that if your restaurant decides to stay on the analog bench in 2021, you’re not even giving yourself the chance to play, let alone win.
The good news is that Lunchbox has your back. We’re here to be the best coach since Eric Taylor to get your restaurant onto the social media field, and winning the game.
You don’t have to be Daniel Krieger to have great photography of your food, restaurant and staff. If you have a professional camera, that’s great, but don’t fret if you don’t. With an iPhone and these three tips, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Making food look great in photographs may seem daunting and impossible, but natural light is your secret weapon to making it easy as pie. Find a spot near a window, or even take the dish to an outdoor table, and shut off any artificial light sources if you can.
With a little natural light pouring onto your subject, you’ll snap the perfect photo every time.
If you’re shooting in a well lit space, you shouldn’t need to do much editing to a food photo. In fact, going overboard on the editing and the filters, can make food look pretty terrible. That filter you like to use that makes you look tan could make somethings, like carrots or oranges, look radioactive. Which is pretty much the last thing you want for your restaurant’s social media.
Take the time to set up a great photo to reduce the amount of editing. Pay attention to colors, play with light. If it looks great unedited, you’ve already won.
You should do some light sharpening, contrast, brightness adjustments, and if you must use a filter, keep it simple. Slide the intensity of the filter down to make the photo look more natural.
Here are some apps we love for quick editing:
Add personal touches to your photographs like branded matchbooks, pens or menus. Even though your guests cannot visit your restaurant, remind them of what it was like to be there.
Use your interior to your advantage: hold drinks up against a cool wallpaper, shoot a few dishes on that cool table in the corner. Ideally, you want your followers to see a photo on their timeline and know where it was taken, before they see the handle.
FIND YOUR VOICE + YOUR CHARACTERS
An authentic voice that makes sense for your restaurant is vital. Hone in on a tone that fits, and run with it. A high-end French bistro, a local neighborhood dive bar, and a fast casual healthy lunch spot all have very different personalities, and therefore, voices.
Remember, social media was created for people, not businesses. Personifying your brand allows your followers and guests to feel a stronger connection to the heart of your business.
Ask yourself what traits your restaurant has. Open a notepad and list all of the words you’d use to describe your restaurant if your restaurant was a person. Don’t forget to include the things your restaurant is NOT. For example…
PLANNING YOUR CONTENT
Followers can smell BS from a mile away, so commitment to being as real and human as possible is a major key. When planning content to post, start with images of the food and atmosphere and then look towards your people. From talented executive chefs to hard working barbacks, your employees are your characters, use them! Personifying your brand resonates with your followers and makes them feel like they’re seeing your restaurant as a friend and not as a company.
In the current Instagram landscape, people are way more engaged on Instagram Stories (short clips that disappear after 24 hours) than they are on regular posts. A great way to use video in your Instagram is by asking a member of your staff to do a “takeover” — showing their experience in the restaurant and allowing your followers to see the restaurant through their eyes. Don’t get hung up about the production quality; it does not need to be super edited or highly polished. It should look and feel just like any other friend’s post to build audience trust and relatability.
Reposting user generated content also goes a long way in showing diner appreciation and growing your brand. If you’re feeling short on content inspiration, showing some love for other restaurants and organizations in your area is a great way to build your reputation.
Highlight local events for good causes to show your diners what you value. Use hashtags to insert yourself into the conversations around dining, but don’t go overboard; five to eight hashtags is plenty! Use a mix of hashtags about the content you’re posting, your own restaurant’s hashtag, and any popular local food media tags.
Keeping up with a consistent flow of posts and interactions is key. While Mark Zuckerberg would like you on social media all the time, that’s not realistic for a busy restaurant operator. 30 minutes per day to sit down, engage, respond to comments, respond to stories, scroll through your feed, and comment on other posts that do something similar to you, is all you need. Tedious, it is, but you can do this at any time during the day or night. You can even break it up into 5 minute sessions throughout the day.
A good rule of thumb for restaurants is to publish three photos and four stories per week. At the absolute bare minimum, you should never go longer than a week without any new content, or else diners might wonder if you’ve closed. Posting daily specials or virtual experiences is an easy way to hit those goals if you’re struggling.
If you’re really stuck, you can always help promote other businesses in your neighborhood or city. This year we’re all on the same team, so showing love to your industry pals helps you as much as it helps them.
Media engagement is huge – it pretty much dictates who is going to view your content and how often that’s happening (thank you ever-changing Instagram algorithm). Everything is a business and Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are bigger than most. It’s simple: media platforms are going to favor the users that bring in more of a return — i.e., more time and money spent on the app. This is the reason why reels gain more engagement than IG posts and 20 minute videos pop up on your Youtube recommendations page. Algorithms are annoying, but important to understand if you are trying to gain visibility across media outlets — it’s practically a game.
Here’s the rules to the game:
- Spend 15-20 minutes per day engaging with your followers. Think of it as a check in – make sure to respond to all your DMs, PMs, and comments across your platforms. Use this time to maybe start a conversation or keep one going. Comment on posts and stories, including people from outside your following.
- Respond to comments within an hour. Quick responses are favored here. Basically, the more engagement you receive on your post, within the first hour of it being live, increases visibility. Your comments count – each of your responses count within the media algorithm realm. Oh, and emojis alone do not technically count in towards engagement — so skip the 🍻🤡💯 standalone comments. You’re writing all of this down, right?
- Capture a wider audience by engaging on your explore tab, or engaging with the followers of your followers. This will not only trick your algorithm into obtaining a higher reach, but gain attention from those who you are engaging with.
DON’T STRESS ABOUT FOLLOWER COUNT TOO MUCH
Getting 1M followers as a restaurant should not be your no.1 priority. Read that again.
Although it matters a little to have some followers, going viral isn’t the game-ending metric for restaurant accounts. While having a globally followed brand woulnd’t hurt, your customers are your neighbors. The most valuable thing your social media can do for you is capture the people in your area, by proudly representing their small part of the world.
To start getting the right kinds of followers, don’t be afraid to call on friends in the industry and ask them to follow your new account. Get more people to come to your page by commenting on posts by other local businesses that you admire. Tag local media and respond to any DMs from potential customers.
Pay more attention to your engagement than your follower count. Having 100 attentive, engaged followers outweighs having 1M ghost followers every time.
RESOURCES – FOR OVER-ACHIEVING
- Sprout Social Blog
- Hubspot Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing
- Adobe Spark
- Social Media Examiner Newsletter
Learn how Lunchbox can help you with build and grow your ghost kitchens and virtual brands!2021designphotographyRestaurant Marketingrestaurant social mediasocial mediasocial media marketing