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5 Social Media Tips For Restaurants

Mike Landry
Written By
Mike Landry
Published On
Aug 15, 2017
5 Social Media Tips for Restaurants

We’ve all heard some iteration of a statistic that tells us that half of restaurants will end up closing within their first year of business and an even greater percentage within the first 5 years. If you are a restaurateur in business then you have beaten the odds and you have something special to offer whether that’s the food, drinks, atmosphere, location, staff, etc… and implementing a few of these ideas will help your unique qualities shine through on social media.

The following marketing tips are designed to be easy to implement and highly effective. Although not every one of these tips can be measured for an exact ROI, these tips should resonate with common sense and certainly over time make a huge impact to your business.

We’ll break this down with 2 offline ideas and 2 online ideas and 1 tip in the middle.

Offline Social Media Tactics For Restaurants

A lot of businesses make the mistake of focussing exclusively online when it comes to social media marketing. Here’s what I mean, a restaurant will hire a social media company or have someone in-house spending all of their time and effort building up their online profiles from what online bears. This is to be expected and in many cases it may be the only way. However, when it comes to restaurants and bars there is great opportunity to build your online social media from what’s going on in reality all around you.

1. Install a Live Social Media Counter

social media counter

The social media counter we would recommend is one where the counter is live and will change based on the real time follower count. This means that it will update live in real time as patrons like and follow your social profiles.

As long as the counter is visible in a prominent place, and your social profile is easy to find,  this is sure to work because your customers are on their phones anyway! Some of them might even be bored and their curiosity will get the better of them and they’ll try to see if a tap of their finger on their phone will change the counter.

Of course, you could take things to another level and treat the counter like a shared public scoreboard where setting different benchmarks will result in different offerings.

For example, if your Instagram has 700 followers, you might advertise that free appetizers will be served at the bar when 1000 followers are hit. Doing this will create gameification and result in getting all of the patrons pushing for each other to join in hitting a benchmark that benefits everyone. Some may even post on their own social media profiles to rally the final few followers they need.

Additional Benefits:

  • You might get people posting about winning the appetizers
  • You might have the admiration of your patrons for being a smart advertiser
  • You might benefit from people having that winning feeling associated with your venue
  • Depending on the venue, you might give your patrons an easy topic to break the ice with and increase socialization

Best of all, aside from delivering on the benchmarks you set, this requires very little ongoing effort or management.

2. Digitizing Word-Of-Mouth from your Menu

Menus are a tool for customers to understand what the restaurant offers so that they can place an order through their server. For most restaurants, this is the extent to which the menu is used. It has been this way for decades, but what if the menu could be more than just a helpful tool for ordering?

We know that most of your customers are on Facebook, Instagram or both. All of these people who have chosen to go to your restaurant have friends and followers that might choose to do the same thing if they were told to from their friend. So, how do you get them to?

Well, you could ask, but just like asking for a good review, it may not feel natural to ask and even if you do, most people will often nod, say they will, and then not. Afterall, what’s in it for them? There is no sense of urgency…

Instead, offer up a a couple different instantly realized incentives such as:

  • Post your meal on instagram and tag us – show your server and we’ll take a drink off your bill.
  • Post a selfie in our restaurant to facebook and instagram and tag us  – show your server and your desert will be on us.

These are only examples, and you will probably have better ideas for your particular venue, but the immediate reward for immediate action should be components to enhance your digital word-of-mouth.

A lot of restaurants will easily see 100’s of customers daily. Can you imagine the impact this would make on social media if a chain of restaurants adopted this and turned their customers into promoters? What would the ROI be on that kind of social proof?

Online Social Media Ideas for Restaurants

1) TrueView Video Advertising

When people want to eat or want to drink, you want to be top of mind and even better, you want to be familiar.

A great way to do this is to run video ads on YouTube that highlight your venue and what makes it worth visiting.

The video, like other commercials should be about 30 seconds unless you’ve got a lot to express. The reason why 30 seconds is the magic number is because on YouTube you can advertise on a TrueView basis which means that advertiser don’t pay when the ad is skipped before 30 seconds elapses which will results in free exposure.

Important to this recommendation is to think realistically about how far someone is likely to travel to get to your venue. If you’re in downtown Toronto it’s probably good enough to carve out a radius that represents a 10-15 minute walk. Of course, some will travel from far and wide but that’s not where you want to spend your ad dollars.

You can also choose the timing of your advertisement around when you know your customers are making decisions about where to go. For example, if you’re near a lot of offices you might choose to advertise from 10:30AM – 12:00PM when lunch time decisions are being made.

The point of this is to let people nearby know who you are, where you are, and why they should think of you when they’re making their decisions and in doing so you’ll surely increase your foot traffic.

One last note. Frequency cap. No one likes watching the same video ad 10 times in one day.

2) Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads

Very similar to the YouTube strategy, you want to do the same thing on Facebook and Instagram. The nuances of advertising on these channels is a bit different because you can do so with video and images, which gives you as the advertiser a few more options.

The reason why you would want to engage Facebook and Instagram and not just depend on YouTube is because people who are out and about aren’t on YouTube as much as they are on Facebook and Instagram for a whole host of reasons.

Here’s how one might utilize these platforms. Suppose, I’m the owner of Wahlburgers and just down the street the Blue Jays are playing from 1PM to 4PM. Knowing that, I’m going to run ads geo-focussed on the Rogers Center from 10AM – 6PM so I can capture everyone en-route to the game and capture people at the game, during the game, looking for something to do afterwards.

I would run a targeted ad to this specific audience that says “Are you a Jays fan? Get a burger and a beer for $10. We’re just 350m away” or some iteration of that.

The reality is that you have incredible control and when you have the foresight and effort to speak directly to the needs of your audience you can make things happen.

Your Staff Should Be Brand Ambassadors!

So far in this post we have talked about ways to get your customers involved and how to use the social media platforms to draw people in, but we haven’t talked about your staff.

Hopefully your staff takes pride in their work and has a lot to gain from your business being successful and further, take ownership and see it as their own. Just like your customers have facebook friends and instagram followers, your staff does too.

Get an employee advocacy platform running in your business. There are a few different platforms out there that are built for this, but the best ones allow you to create competition and allow your staff to contribute to the bank of social content that can be easily shared about your venue.

The creation of competition that is tracked will allow you to reward the most evangelical employees, while maybe identifying a few staffers that aren’t as proud as the rest. Of course, some may not be very social media savvy and will never adopt it, but for those that are you’ll make it easier for them to quickly share and promote your business.

While these platforms are typically geared towards B2B, it can still do wonders for a restaurant.

Imagine the kind of impact this would have if a large restaurant or bar with over 50 servers and bartenders made it easy for their staff (who was hired for all the same qualities that would likely make them popular) to share?

As a business owner, creating a culture of employee-brand ambassadors, that have a vested interest in promoting your restaurant to their audience and network will have immense impact on the marketing exposure of your business.


Let’s assume that the average server at a prominent bar has 1,000 followers/friends. While you may think that average is high, I’d bet it’s probably on the low end because some people will have 5K – 10K followers.

That’s 100,000 people where the majority of them will also be in the city that your business resides in.

How much would it be worth to the business to not only just reach those people, but to reach them with a friendly face they trust, like or love? What’s thousands of likes, and hundreds of shares/comments on a new addition to the menu worth to a business?

A lot less than a monthly subscription to a platform.

You’re already successful and you’re doing something right, and hopefully a few of these strategies will add to that.

Thanks for reading.

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