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....



5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Photos & Audience Engagement.

Struggling to gain followers on Instagram?

Wondering why your engagement is inconsistent?


While the complete answer begins with an amazing photo (subject, lighting, framing), and includes countless other strategies (think image content, post timing, hashtag strategy, etc…) here are some simple tricks that will make any of your photos stand out. 


#1 - Turn On the Lights! 

If your image is a bit on the dark side, either adjust the photo before you upload, or use Instagram's advanced editing tool to amp up the light. You can do this by increasing BRIGHTNESS or HIGHLIGHTS, and by reducing SHADOWS. Use each sparingly and rarely ever all 3 at the same time.

Be careful, you can make your photos so bright that they lose their subtleties (unless this is your "look" - see @joriespaulding below). They should be just bright enough to help catch someone's eye and make the photo feel fresh, regardless of what a viewers phone's brightness level might be set to. 

Of course, this does not apply to every photo style or theme, but as a general rule, your average photo will get more love if you turn up the lights just a bit! 


#2 - Get Chunky

Notice how the trees in this 'winter driveway' photo create some "noise"? This does allow for significant contrast with the snow for an interesting image, but in a montage of photos, it gets lost in the shuffle (side note - it could be a bit brighter :).

Photos like this can receive solid engagement as they are seen in a linear feed, but are too "busy" to attract much attention in a 3x12 thumbnail gallery where you hope to be discovered amongst the sea of photos.

Photos with chunky blocks of color like the 'blue sky moon' do a much better job at drawing attention in a gallery due to the brains visual perception sequence of Shape, Color, Content. 


#3 - Create a “Look”

Be consistent with your tones, coloring and light. You can do this in many ways, from the subjects/colors in your photo, to post production editing in your favorite app, Instagram app edits, and filter application. The easiest technique is to consistently use the same 1 or 2 filters, but this depends on the image you are working with. 

The photos you see in GoVermont are often custom edited AND include a filter to get just the right look. 

There are many accounts that do this well, including:

#4 - Be on Time

Be timely with your posts, or timeless with your subject matter. 

Classic summer photos shared in the winter won’t work well on a consistent basis, but you can certainly post an interior shot any time of year.

Spring flowers popping where you are? Then a picture of fall foliage probably won't do that well. You get the point...


#5 - Give Them What They Want

This may or may not be obvious, but you must give your audience what they want to see. After all, it IS the reason they follow you. Stray too far from what they typically like and you will see your engagement decline.


If you aren't inspired by the photo(s) you are posting, then you won't be motivated to continue to produce quality work. At some point, you have to do your own thing - especially in the beginning. There are millions of Instagrammers out there. Why should someone follow you?

These are just a few of lessons we have learned attracting 100,000+ followers for our clients!


If You Need help with Instagram Marketing or accelerating your account growth, We have space available for a limited # of new clients.

Drop Us a note Today to discuss your Goals!

Name *
Mavriko Brand Marketing provides marketing expertise without the inflated fees. Specializing in Digital Marketing, Strategy, Planning and Design, we help you Make Your Move™.