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Social Media Marketing for Restaurants: How to Go Viral

Social Media Marketing for Restaurants: How to Go Viral

Picture of Clarissa Buch Zilberman

Clarissa Buch Zilberman

Uncover the recipe for generating buzz online and how the right restaurant management platform can help.

Going viral can turn a restaurant into an overnight sensation. But for restaurant owners caught in the whirlwind of daily operations, dedicating time to curate and manage social media profiles might seem insurmountable. 

The problem is most people decide where to eat based on what they see online. So if your restaurant isn’t showing up on social media, you could miss out on a big chunk of business. In fact, 30% of people steer clear of restaurants that lack a strong presence on platforms like Instagram. 

Whether you’re a small wine bar or a burgeoning restaurant franchise, building a strong digital presence is key to boosting visibility and drawing in new guests.  

For operators that are short on time and lacking budget, take the guesswork out of viral social media marketing with these effective strategies below. 

Showcase your restaurant’s personality

In a sea of bland corporate accounts, let your restaurant’s personality shine through by infusing your online profiles with the same charm and charisma that sets your establishment apart.  

You can share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your kitchen staff in action, highlight customer testimonials and reviews, and feature the unique quirks and traditions that make your place special. It could be anything from a signature dish that guests can’t find anywhere else, to a funky interior design, or even a cherished family recipe that has been passed down through generations.   

This personal touch creates an emotional connection with your guests, fostering loyalty and enticing potential patrons to step through your doors. By embracing authenticity and featuring what makes your restaurant truly one-of-a-kind, you’ll not only attract diners but also cultivate a community eager to share in the experience you offer. So don’t just market your menu — tell your story and invite others to become a part of it. 

Craft irresistible visuals

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but on social media, it could be worth a thousand customers. After all, more than half of patrons follow food and beverage companies to discover new dining spots. 

Therefore, it’s essential to invest in high-quality photography that showcases your dishes in their most mouthwatering light. From close-up shots of sizzling steaks to artfully arranged plates of colorful sushi, every image should evoke a sensory experience that leaves viewers hungry for more. Experiment with different angles, lighting techniques, and compositions to find the visual style that best represents your restaurant’s unique brand and cuisine.  

Here are some more tips to spark inspiration: 

  • Highlight variety: Showcase a diverse range of dishes from your menu to appeal to different tastes and preferences. 
  • Capture moments: Beyond just food, capture the ambiance and vibe of your restaurant. Photograph happy guests, bustling kitchens, and cozy interiors to give potential patrons a glimpse of the overall dining experience. 
  • Tell a story: Use your visuals to tell the story behind your dishes. Share the inspiration behind your recipes, highlight local ingredients, or show the craftsmanship of your chefs to create a deeper connection with your audience. 
  • Stay on-trend: Keep an eye on current food and photography trends to stay relevant and capture the attention of social media users. Experiment with popular hashtags, filters, and editing styles to make your posts stand out. 

Take advantage of user-generated content

Almost two-thirds of millennials snap pics of their meals before digging in, often sharing them on social media afterward. Operators can make the most of these free photos by reposting user-generated content (UGC) on their restaurant’s profiles.  

It’s a simple and cost-effective way to engage with guests after they’ve dined with you. It also adds authenticity and credibility to your brand, showing your followers what they can expect if they make a reservation. 

Encourage people to share your restaurant on social media by: 

  • Designing Instagram-worthy spots: Craft visually captivating spaces in your restaurant that naturally prompt guests to snap and share photos. Same goes for your dishes. Plate items to inspire diners to reach for their phones before their forks. 
  • Providing perks: Drive UGC by rewarding patrons with discounts or hosting contests to spotlight the most captivating posts.  
  • Streamlining the process: Simplify sharing by supplying hashtags or QR codes linked to your social media. 


What is the Average Profit Margin for a Restaurant?

Engage your audience with interactive posts

Social media is more than just a platform for broadcasting your message — it’s a two-way conversation. Beyond UGC, promote engagement by asking questions, running polls, and hosting contests that invite your followers to participate.  

Whether it’s polling them on their favorite menu items or challenging them to recreate a signature dish at home, interactive content fosters a sense of community and keeps your guests coming back for more. Don’t be afraid to get creative — think outside the box and experiment with new ideas to keep your feed fresh and exciting. Here are some examples: 

  • Host a “caption this” contest, where followers can submit captions for a funny or intriguing photo from your restaurant. 
  • Run a “menu madness” bracket-style tournament, where followers vote on their favorite dishes to determine the ultimate champion. 
  • Introduce a “secret menu item” contest, where followers can suggest creative dish ideas or flavor combinations, and the winning entry gets featured as a limited-time special. 
  • Start a “guest chef takeover” series, where local chefs or food influencers take over your social media for a day, sharing their favorite dishes and engaging with your followers. 

Consider influencer partnerships

Influencer marketing has become a worthwhile tool for reaching new audiences and driving engagement on social media, especially among younger generations.  

Gen Z heavily relies on influencers for restaurant information. Meanwhile, approximately 37% of people actively turn to social media to discover restaurants, a figure that rises to 42% among Gen Z and 46% for millennials.  

That’s why partnering with food influencers or local bloggers can help amplify your reach and expose your restaurant to new audiences.  

Look for influencers whose values align with your own and whose audience demographics match your target market. Whether it’s inviting them for a complimentary meal in exchange for a review or sponsoring a post on their feed, influencer partnerships can be an effective way to increase your restaurant’s credibility. 

Dig into the data

Remember the cronut phenomenon? Don’t let social media popularity undermine your restaurant’s success. Instead, lean on modern restaurant software to adeptly navigate the challenges that can come with sudden online fame.  

With the right platform, your team can efficiently manage inventory, ensuring ingredients are ordered in real-time according to both current and projected demand. You can also optimize staff schedules based on expected traffic and streamline order processing with instant updates on availability and wait times.   

The most significant advantage, however, lies in the ability to gather and analyze data. By using a restaurant software solution linked to your POS, you can accurately and effectively prepare for future surges. 

You can also use this data to help inform what items to promote or adjust pricing strategies to capitalize on popular trends. These reports offer valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior, allowing you to tailor your menu offerings and marketing efforts to better resonate with your target guests. 

Five stars for restaurant social media marketing

With millions of users browsing their feeds daily, a tempting photo could be just what you need to draw in customers and boost your brand. By showcasing your restaurant’s personality, creating irresistible visuals, and using data wisely, you can stay ahead of trends and ensure your business thrives both in person and online.  

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