By Joseph Brady, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, Reliant Funding
If you’re the owner of a successful restaurant, you’re probably not new to promoting your business on social media — especially Instagram. Whether you handle social media yourself or outsource marketing to an agency, you’ve always got to be ahead of your competitors in what, how and when you post it. Putting the best day and time aside (nuances we’ll get to later), the best season to promote yourself on Instagram is the festive one. Holidays and celebrations are in abundance between October to January and it’s up to you, to make the most of them and champion the Instagram game.
To be the best at Instagram, it’s important to build appeal to those who use the app. Instagram is close to touching almost 1 billion active users and it’s a number that’s on the rise, making it one of the most used social media apps. We’ve compiled a list of the things your restaurant should tick off to truly optimize your restaurant activity and outreach on the app.
First Things First…
Switch to a business profile account if you haven’t done so yet. While switching to a business profile account itself is free, additional features may cost you a small amount, but it’s a good investment to get your business seen. With a business profile, you can link your Instagram account to your Facebook business account, get insights on how your business is doing on Instagram, and even easily create ads to promote on Instagram.
Beat to the ‘Punch’
Create a new and changing menu over this season. Add some bright new dishes and drinks that are sure to bring people flocking to your store, and take pictures of what you’re selling. Millennials and Gen-Z love to experiment with new food. Rest assured, if you create something truly spectacular, it will pick up traction on social media.
Thanksgiving. Restaurants these days stay open on Thanksgiving Day, and yours could offer Thanksgiving courses including a turkey, sides, and desserts such as different pies. Include a vegetarian option for Thanksgiving such as salads, roasted cauliflower, and stuffed mushrooms. Above all, keep a warm and welcoming ambience that’s visually appealing and brings a feeling of home to your customers.
Include a corner for kids to dress up as pilgrims and turkeys to share on your Instagram and promote the holiday! Add drinks like a Maple Perfect Manhattan, or a Cranberry Champagne Cocktail in your menu. You can even try non-alcoholic twists or create a November sister to the pumpkin-spiced latte.
Christmas. Christmas is one of the most loved holidays. And what’s not to love? Wrapping presents, decorating the tree, and the endless lights. Create a menu to bring the Christmas cheer to your customers.
Include dishes like a Caprese Christmas Wreath or Ham & Cheese Pinwheels which have been claimed to be one of the best things ever eaten. If these dishes don’t go with the theme of your restaurant, don’t fret! Anything that keeps up with the Christmas theme, uses red and green colors, sprinkles, gingerbread and is eye-popping should certainly catch the eye of Instagram users. Incorporate the theme in even your regular dishes and show off what your guests can look forward to on your page.
New Years. New Years is meant for food. Several cultures around the world celebrate the dawn of a new beginning with different foods to symbolize different things. Special cakes and bread are the most common, long noodles (represent long life), field peas (represent coins), herring (represents abundance) and pork (represent good luck). Market foods that will bring good luck in the year ahead to your guests and welcome them to try it at your restaurant!
New Years is also big for food delivery, so having a delivery option will help boost sales.
In summary, include dishes and drinks to bring a wow factor to your restaurant and get people buzzing to take pictures and post on their Instagram- talking about the food and talking about your restaurant.
A Holiday Story
Still don’t know exactly what your guests would like best? Ask them! Create an Instagram template that asks your followers their preferences in a subtle and fun way. Ask them what their favorite part of the season is, whether they prefer this or that, what’s their favorite thing to eat and drink during the holidays etc. Ask your followers to screenshot the template, fill it out and post it on their stories. Remind them to tag your restaurant so you can check out their answers and plan out your menu to surprise them.
You can also use Instagram’s Ask or Poll features, too, for faster & more direct feedback.
Create the perfect Instagram-worthy location. Whether it’s a natural setting or you set up an artificial wall with decorations, make it the perfect background for your guests to click pics up and post. It can be something cheesy for adults like dressing up like Santa and elves, or a gingerbread house corner for people to decorate. As long as it packs a wow factor, it will be memorable and talked about by your guests and their friends.
The best part of creating something really amazing is that it will keep your guests eager for the next holidays to see what your restaurant has to offer.
Play the Tease
Now that you have your festive menu and decorations all planned out, it’s time to tease your fuests & followers with what to look forward to during the holidays. Post stories (or go Live!) where you’re planning the menu and decorating the store. Showing followers the work and effort you put into holiday planning can also intrigue them more into what you’re cooking up.
Create polls and quizzes and let them interact with the goings on at your restaurant to stir up an interest to pay your restaurant a visit. You can even put up posts using word plays or crosswords in posts, asking people to comment and guess what new items are being added on the menus. Offer discounts or surprises to the first X number of people to guess it right. Hold challenges and contests on Instagram and offer giveaways to the winners.
Let the Holidays Begin!
Post with the Most
The weeks building up to Thanksgiving and “Drinksgiving,” Christmas and the New Years is going to be eventful in celebrations. In other words, Instagram feeds are going to be very crowded. Don’t be disheartened! Start ahead and post everyday posts about the holidays and what’s happening at your restaurant. Make yourself a familiar name and when the holidays come around, people will certainly want to drop by your store.
Use the right filters, use other Instagram editor apps and plan out every post. Don’t be afraid to use holiday-themed puns in your captions. The cornier the better!
Hash Browns and Hashtags
It’s critical to do a proper research on the hashtags used during the festive season. Including those in your posts can be the biggest thing to create organic impressions and build a maximum outreach. Even one hashtag can average 12.6% more engagement than posts without them.
Repost, Repost, Repost
Ask guests to tag your restaurant when they share pictures on Instagram. When they do, the best way to build a following is to re-post what they have shared. This will make your guests & followers feel appreciated, and make them want to return to your restaurant.
You can even start a hashtag such as #’yourbusinessname’Thanksgiving and anyone who uses the hashtag in a post and write about what they enjoyed the most at your restaurant can get a pitcher of soda or an appetizer for free next time they visit.
It’s All About the Timing
Although you may have epic Instagram posts, you may ascertain that they aren’t reaching the engagement levels you wish to make. That’s why it’s important to plan out when you post using Instagram tools that will plan it out for you. Check out tools like Later, Agorapulse, and Autogrammer to help you out with this.
Reach out to food bloggers with a loyal amass following. Bloggers with anywhere between 20k-30k followers have a good reach and wouldn’t be too heavy on the wallet either. They’re your best chance of getting a good reach to new guests and would be happy to post about your restaurant.
Instagram is one of the best tools to push your restaurant and attract a large audience during the holidays. Lowering your prices, offering discounts and giveaways may seem like you’re losing your business integrity, but it’s worth the brand awareness it builds around your restaurant.
Don’t be afraid to skimp out on any step given here, and if you feel you’re digging too deep in your pockets, you can always take a financing option to help you out. And the key rule of Instagram? Don’t be afraid to show off and do so abundantly! You’re both your best cheerleader, and now the champion of the Instagram game.
About the Author
Joseph Brady is Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Reliant Funding, a provider of short-term working capital to small and mid-sized businesses nationwide. He has more than 14 years of experience in B2B digital marketing, optimization and operations, with a focus in the financial services market.