Back to blog

How to run an Instagram account for restaurants

Restaurants, whether national expanded restaurants or single locations, are everywhere. With the simple search on Google of nearby restaurants can provide hundreds of options, dependent on where you are living or traveling to. The challenge for restaurants is quite often competition - competition with locations that are nearby, or competition with similar cuisine.

To truly stand out from the competition takes strategy, hard work and a concise plan that should revolve around digital media and marketing. The importance of digital media cannot be forgotten, with things like review management meaning more than ever (did you know that 34% of diners choose diners based on information found on peer review sites, by extension through social media strategies?

Instagram is at the forefront of marketing for restaurants. If you are a restaurant owner, a social media manager or a consultant working on a new restaurant client, discovering how to run an Instagram account for restaurants should be a significant part of your social media strategy.

Here are 5 tips to run an Instagram account for restaurants  

1. Answer this question - what is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

A unique selling proposition should be determined for any business, whether service based or customer service facing, like restaurants. Particularly with this industry, it is important to determine what your business’ difference maker is - your unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP will identify how you stand out against such a competitive market.

Perhaps you have impeccable customer service, or maybe you have a unique dessert that cannot be found anywhere else. Or, you could have a more extensive wine list than anyone in your city. Whatever the case might be, identify your USP and showcase it in your Instagram feed.

2. Have a dedicated hashtag that you use regularly.

Using a dedicated hashtag for your restaurant will create a following that your patrons can pay attention to. The same can be said for location tagging your images - we recommend tagging your restaurant location, your city, and other surrounding areas dependent on the specific photo and caption.

Having a hashtag for multiple locations will also help differentiate photos. For example, Tap and Barrel is a restaurant with multiple locations in Vancouver, Canada. To differentiate between the locations, they use #TAPconvention, #TAPvillage and #TAPshipyards, which reflects the specific areas of Vancouver that these locations are based.

3. Highlight your food - and take high quality photos.

Optimizing your photo quality, especially photos that showcase your food, is essential for restaurants on Instagram. Using your iPhone’s camera or even a DSLR can truly display just how great your food is.


  • Look for natural lighting to highlight your food items
  • We find that white plating can make your food really *pop*
  • Don’t filter your images *too* much, so you don’t lose the natural colors of your food

4. Encourage your customers to share photos and videos from your restaurant

Word of mouth and referrals is a great way to earn new and repeat business, especially in the restaurant industry. Encouraging customers to post their photos and videos from your restaurant on Instagram can be a great way to generate referral traffic to your location.

You can do this through a few ways:

  1. Create a contest with your selected hashtag (see recommendation #2). For every use of the hashtag on Instagram, your diners could be entered into a draw for a gift card
  2. Ask your servers to encourage their guests to share photos and video
  3. Create promotional advertising that shares your Instagram account and encourages your guests to share their photos when they’re at your location

5. Take advantage of Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories is such a great way to take your customers into your restaurant. Using Instagram Stories, you can showcase your staff, activity in the kitchen, or Boomerangs of your bartender creating his or her special cocktail.

The beauty of Instagram Stories is that they do not need to be as professional in quality as your Instagram feed needs to be. By this, we mean that you can snap a quick photo of your Daily Special and post as an Instagram Story, or you could take a video of your chef explaining how he or she came to develop your feature item on the list.

You could also run a quick, guerilla-style contest through Instagram Stories - encourage your guests to take a selfie at your location, post to Instagram Stories and tag your restaurant for a chance to win a gift card.

Instagram offers so much potential for brands on the network, though it’s important not to get too distracted; your marketing strategy should be focused and just that, strategic in nature, so you can focus on your goals and objectives to generate ROI - revenue! With Instagram, you can engage customers, encourage referrals and gain visibility of your brand with a strategic and dedicated Instagram strategy.