That’s the number of #food hashtags globally on Instagram, rising minute by minute.* (It's actually risen by four million since our last count in November 2017.)
To say that Instagram’s food community is an impactful marketing channel for your restaurant business is an understatement. Restaurateurs need always to be thinking about how every element and square inch of their restaurant can be used to create their unique brand and be “Instagram worthy.”
The more potential photo opportunities designed within your restaurant and menu, the more diners will want to snap and share, and the bigger your following will become. It’s that simple.
First off, who is your customer base?
Of the current 800 million Instagram users, the majority are Millennials with 90% of the Instagram user base 35 years and younger. That’s not to say Instagram can’t be effective connecting with a mature restaurant clientele, you just might experience slower growth through the platform.
Cater your Instagram content to your demographic by sharing photos and messages that will matter to them.
What should restaurants post?
Before it was just about food, now it's about sharing everything about your restaurant that is consistent with your brand.
When designing your food and drink menus, create three to five items that will become your "Instagram stars" in addition to your other items. The "Instagram stars" should be unique to your restaurant--for example: in their presentation, the ingredients, or the way they're prepared or consumed. Snap these items with a consistent aesthetic to your brand and add a custom hashtag so you can track how many times they are posted.
Your "Insta Stars" will be the key elements that get you the most #instalove, and are likely to be snapped and shared the most, garnering your brand the most attention. Try to create new Insta Star dishes seasonally so Instagrammers and diners continue to come back to see what’s new.
The people behind popular dessert shop Sweet Jesus in Toronto are pros at getting Instagrammers to snap and share almost identical photos of their ice cream cone creations on the shop’s branded turquoise backdrop. It’s often difficult to know if it was a post from the brand or an Instagrammer, that’s how well they have influenced Instagrammers.
Your restaurant’s design and décor provide endless opportunities to incorporate Instagram-worthy elements that are consistent with your brand.
- Consider messaging in tiles or signs, unique wallpaper, interesting colour palettes, feature photo walls, and themed sitting areas.
Exterior to interior design, nothing should be overlooked as Instagrammers flock to restaurants for the trendy design photo opp, but then stay for the food. San Francisco-based restaurant, Media Noche, is a design haven for Instagrammers. When you search the restaurant online, images of people and pets posing in front their infamous Pink Flamingo wall mural are the first to appear even before food pics.
Action shots of your chefs cooking or plating, servers sharing their favourite dishes, bartenders shaking up fancy cocktails are all great photo opportunities. It is an Instagram fact that photos featuring faces get 38% more likes than those without, according to Sproutsocial.com.
A professional photographer will always take the better shot and edit it to perfection, hands down. But for restaurateurs who are managing Instagram in-house it is most effective to have one team member manage the process for consistency.
- Take your shots in natural light or bright, well-lit spaces
- Purchase a Selfie Ring Light to attach to your phone for immediate lighting
- Avoid using a flash
- Use a tripod built for phones
- Figure out if the shot will be of one item or a few items to create a scene
- Use props to help fill in the shot
- Try different angles
- Add a human element
- Maintain a consistent filter
Instagram is a restaurant’s gateway to the influential food photo frenzy community who are flocking to restaurants for the best opportunity to share, one plate at a time.
Organize your Instagram feed as a story of 6 posts. Each post should depict a different part of your restaurant or brand:
- Menu item
- Drink item
- Brand element
Hashtags allow users who are searching that hashtag to connect with your post. Hashtags allow your posts to be part of a trending topic and allow you to track the number of posts associated with the hashtag, for effectiveness.
- Create unique brand-specific hashtags
- Post hashtags that are relevant to the image and message being posted to capture the RIGHT follower attention
- Be aware of the trending food holidays on Instagram, like National Taco Day (October 4), to join the conversation when appropriate for your brand
By Kate Engineer
*as of August 9, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.
This article originally appeared in our semi-annual magazine, Chef Connexion.