How To Market Your Bar or Restaurant On Instagram



Instagram is becoming more competitive by the minute.


With over 100 million new photos and videos posted every day, you'll need to work smart to reach your fans and customers.



Here are 5 tips to grow your bar or restaurant on Instagram.


1) Don’t show photos of food!


I bet that caught your attention! And yes, I'm serious. 


You should NOT show photos or videos of your food....


....ALL. THE. TIME. 


Do your photos look at least this good??


We get it, you can plate a dish and take a solid photo. The thing is, attractive food & drinks are but one element of a quality restaurant, neighborhood pub, or dive bar.


Think about it for a second...

Our favorite bars and restaurants are the culmination of 100’s of intentional decisions regarding the location, design, decor, lighting, music, products, partners, ingredients, tableware, suppliers, staff, etc…


100+ decisions that result in a unique experience. 


Tell this story.


A bar or restaurant's unique blend of attributes has a tremendous impact on the perceived quality of the experience, which can even influence the perceived quality of the food.

These combined qualities are essential to differentiating yourself in your market and offer you countless opportunities to share your unique story with the world on Instagram. 


Show us the space and tell us what inspired the design.

Show us the space and tell us what inspired the design.


Keep in mind the majority of restaurants are stuck in the same groove of posting food shots, so you are competing with every other bar and restaurant for Instagram Likes and Followers if this is all you post. 


People can only see so many plates of food in their Instagram feed before they decide they’ve had enough and choose to Unfollow (or refuse to Follow) restaurants that don’t offer something unique, interesting, and useful.


IDEAS To get You Started:


  • Post a beautiful photo of the local farm where you get your cheese/produce/meat (or even better, tell us the story of the farmer who works their ass off to provide it).


  • Reveal the diligence and daily effort that goes into prepping your food, or bring us into the kitchen to learn how to make a unique dish.


  • Introduce us to the story of your best customer, complete with their favorite menu items, a bit about them, and what keeps them coming back.


  • Teach us how to mix the original craft cocktail your bartender just came up with.


  • Show us smiling patrons celebrating a special occasion, or an impromptu night out (be sure to get permission to post).



At the end of the day, the best bars and restaurants on Instagram bring in new customers by:


 1) Standing out with original and dynamic content that gains/retains new Followers 

 2) Showcasing a unique experience/promise that conveys value

 3) Sharing stories that inspire people to show up at their door and tell their friends.



Customers need to be energized to visit, not simply shown a visual menu like a Chinese takeout restaurant menu board!




2) Make your customers the hero


Smiling faces of happy customers = guaranteed likes


Share their photos!


Create a dialogue by asking them questions. Seek feedback on how you can get better.  


Develop an original Instagram hashtag that includes your brand name (like #XYZrestaurantlove), encourage patrons to use it, then repost quality user photos with credit. 


Reply and like every comment and direct message (especially any negative comments). 


Host contests to give back to your Followers (think gift cards, branded apparel, cooking lessons, private dining events….)


Send direct messages to your best customers that you haven’t seen in a while. Invite them in with their friends. Offer them something for “free” to say thank you and incentivize them to visit.



3) Plan to get serious


Instagram enables bars and restaurants to directly engage their Followers (for free) on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean you should spend valuable time each day trying to figure out what to post. 


The most successful Instagramers plan their posts many days in advance, organizing the messages and media they want to share according to the story and key selling points they want to convey.


They know what the goals are for the restaurant or bar on a macro level and organize that into a plan for communicating their story on Instagram


We’ve developed a simple planning calendar for our clients that organizes and streamlines the planning process, so they never have to wonder what they will post that day, who is responsible for executing, or what is the best time to post. 


This tool helps them be consistent with the posts, which is essential to growth. Ask about getting a copy for your restaurant. 



4) Mix up your media


Still photos are nice and all, but like Facebook, Instagram is beginning to reward video posts with extended reach, and short videos are a perfect format for Instagram Stories. 


Give us a tutorial, a tour, or a time-lapse of a dish coming together.


Boomerangs can be a cool way to show “the perfect pour”, ninja knife skills, a beautiful plate served to a table, guests raising a “cheers”…etc…


Check out this cool Cinemagraph by The Wayfarer:

202 Likes, 5 Comments - The Wayfarer (@thewayfarernyc): "Drop by 💧☕️ for #NationalCappuccinoDay ✨ #WalrusWednesdays #TheWayfarernyc #wayfarer #cappuccino..."


You might also try going Live in Stories from a staff event or outing. 


Why not Broadcast a wine education class/staff training or shoot a clip of the tour you take of a brewery/vineyard that you source from. 


Whatever you do, mix it up. Your target audience will appreciate that your content is always fresh. Remember, you are competing with EVERYONE who is vying for attention on Instagram, not just other bars and restaurants.



5) Post at the right time


The right time to post is different for every bar and restaurant, but generally, you should post when the majority of your Followers are online (obviously).


To reveal this data, convert your profile to a business account (tied to your Facebook page) and use the in app analytics to see the highest traffic times for your account. 



Access Follower activity here in Instagram App analytics:




Instagram chunks these times into 3 hr blocks, so you will have to experiment with the best times for your account. 


Based on our work growing Instagram accounts with 50+ clients across industries over the past year, 6-8pm is generally a good default time to post, but you may also find success around 9am, or 12pm. These times can vary Friday-Sunday.



Post to Stories any day, all day. Stories are fast becoming the best way to resonate to the top of your Followers feeds, and you can be a bit more casual and of the moment. Get creative!



Pro tip: We have seen evidence that posting to Stories at the same time you upload a new gallery post helps extend the reach of the Gallery post. The Instagram algorithm is complex to say the least, so try this technique for a week to test it for your account.





These are the basics of how smart bars and restaurants are growing with Instagram marketing.

There a many other ways to optimize and refine your Instagram marketing strategy, but if you execute in these areas first, you have the best chance to improve your Following, increase engagement, and drive the ROI for your business!



Drop us line if you would like to dramatically accelerate your growth on Instagram!





More from the Journal....



7 Ways Brands Fail at Social Media

It’s tougher than ever to capture attention and drive engagement with social media. To make an impact with this marketing tactic, you’ll need to be diligent, patient, curious, creative, consistent and risk tolerant. 

Here are 7 things to avoid when optimizing your social media efforts. 

                  Cameron Russel

                  Cameron Russel

#1 – A closed culture.

Many companies fear honest and open conversation with their customer. They avoid criticism and hide behind the brand. The fans own the brand, so listen to them and engage in open conversation! Take them seriously. Admit when you are wrong and say so in a genuine manner. Marketing teams that must constantly consult PR or legal are a prime example of a disjointed culture. Harmony across all divisions produces the best results.

Leaders should spend their time ensuring the business has a cohesive approach to social, where everyone involved is on the same page, able to innovate, share great ideas, and collectively protect the brand. Easier said than done – but it’s worth the effort when you get it right.


#2 - Segregating channels.

Brands are a set of assumptions and beliefs that your audience develops over time. Where action meet promise. These actions must be consistent across marketing channels, or else they confuse and alienate the fans. Each impression layers upon one another. Fans do not isolate the channels on which you communicate, so don’t act differently on social then you do in store, on your website, at trade shows and with direct mail.

Customer service should act like community managers, TV ad’s should relate to promoted posts, visual style should resonate across all channels, etc..


#3 – Failing to try new networks:

The list of social networks available to brands is at all time high. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and Ello are just the top of the list. With reach and attention at all time lows, and ‘pay to play’ becoming the norm, it’s a mistake to avoid and test new platforms. Many studies show that the brands with the largest fan base on these channels are those who were on them first. Read that line again. The brands with the greatest # of fans on a social channel, says as much about their strategy, as it does about their early adoption.

Capitalizing on niche social sites might not be far reaching, but your potential to make a splash down the road is far greater.


#4 – Treating all networks the same:

Strategies should be tailored to each unique site, capitalizing on their nuances. They each have a distinct niche and vibe to them, which should be accounted for. Posting the same photo to all sites simultaneously is a popular example of how not to engage your communities.

While message and tone need to be consistent across all your marketing channels, they shouldn’t take the same form on each social site.

Maybe you speak about one topic on Instagram (let’s say corporate culture), but on Facebook you champion your fans and the great things they do with your product/service. If you maintain the brand appropriate tone and style, and focus on different topics, you incentivize someone to follow you on each site.


#5 – Using a one-off, tactical approach:

None of these channels are a magic bullet to build your brand, and any activities should be born from a larger brand and business strategy. Testing new sites or taking risks with content should be done systematically, quickly, and with clear metrics to define success (see #7).

Do more of what works, test, refine and adapt. Don’t be shy about learning from competitors or companies who also speak to your customers (IE: what might John Deere learn from Wolverine work boots)?


#6 – Broadcasting too frequently:

Seriously. Just stop. Choose quality over quantity. Don’t post another product shot because you have nothing else in mind for that day. Better to spend the time brainstorming ideas for posts later in the week/month, than to force something out because you “have to”. However, you should be consistent and intelligently uncover the best times of day to post so you maximize the potential of each.


#7 – Infrequently measuring results to quantify success:

You must first determine what success looks like and set clear goals. Engagement is on everyones mind, but it’s a tricky game. Maybe it’s simply monthly improvement that you are looking for. Maybe it’s a goal to achieve X with one particular post, or to reduce customer service response times.


Regardless of what you hope to measure, you must track it consistently and have real conversations about the results, moving the bar as needed to keep everyone motivated and accountable.


These are but a few of the fundamental things you should focus on for social media success. Perhaps most important of all is to manage expectations, have fun and accept that what works today may not work tomorrow!