Social Media Marketing for Restaurants and Cafes – An Expert’s Guide

20th May 2021

Having just gone through one of the biggest punch-in-the-guts that hospitality has seen in living memory, we thought we’d turn our attention to the industry that is so dear to our hearts (and stomachs).

Just like every other industry, social media marketing is vital to the success of hospitality businesses. It helps with brand awareness, customer connections, community building and loyalty to name but a few. It allows you to focus on your current customer base, while also reaching out to new mouths to feed. If your business is on social you can capitalise and connect with your customers being on there, hopefully snapping pictures of the delicious cocktail/croissant/chicken yakitori creation you’ve so lovingly put together.

Here we give you our top tips about how to be a leading social media marketer in the hospitality game.

Know who you are

So you’re a pasta and wine bar. But how should your marketing differentiation from every other pasta and wine bar in the country? It’s useful to take stock of your business from the outside in. You’re aiming to create a lifestyle through your social media, and the best way to do that is to personify your brand. Think of your brand as a person and go from there.

Look at who you are targeting (fine diners, after-work crowd, date nights, girls nights, family dining). What do your interiors and styling say about you, what does your restaurant logo design and brand stand for, and who are you attracting through this? What is your menu personality? Understand how you should be talking to your audience based on who your business is. You want to bring your business to life through personality, so nail that fist.

Social Media should bring a human element to your brand. Knowing who you are and having a personality also means having ownership over what goes right and what goes wrong. A great example of a brand owning the not-so-positive aspects is Gelato Messina, a brand that dominates social media with their drool-worthy photos, names and descriptions of all things icecream. But when things go wrong, they own it. Exhibit A below, when a cookie pie went viral and crashed their brains and the entire system, meaning hundreds of customers went pie-less. They simply went to social media and did a hat-in-hand apology.

Lune Croissant also does a great job at keeping it human!

Focus on Community Management and Engagement with your social media marketing

Social Media Marketing is all about building relationships. You want to be approachable, desirable and responsive to your audience. You should really be doing this on a regular basis (daily if possible – if you use Metigy we can tell you the best time to post each day). See what people are posting and talking about when it comes to your venue. Reward your customers for posting about you by writing back to them. Let them know you’re watching, listening and responding to them. You can repost their images, repost their Instagram Stories. Like and comment on their posts. Some people may not tag you directly, so go hunting – look for those that have tagged the location, or using a hashtag. It allows you to further communicate your brand voice and show others that there’s a real person behind your account, and not a bot.

Reward your customers for engaging with your content.

Instagram is ego-driven: the more that people engage, the higher the reach, and the better the Instagram algorithm will work for you. 

Inner-west Sydney staple cafe and preserving legends Cornersmith are really finger-on-the-pulse when it comes to community management and engagement. Having released a cookbook a few years ago, they have people pickling and preserving across the entire country and will often feature images of their follower’s pursuits. They are also really engaged on other people’s channels – taking the time to comment authentically when they’re tagged in posts. This simple touch gives its users the warm and fuzzies. 

Giving your audience something doesn’t mean they’ll stop coming. In fact, the opposite can occur.

Anecdotally, when Flour and Stone, the coveted bakery in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, released their cookbook Flour and Stone: Baked for Love, Life and Happiness instore sales went up 30%! Why? People had the book at home and could very well recreate their favourite treat, but seeing the recipes on the page meant the average punter could appreciate how many ingredients, time and effort went into their favourite baked goods, and they showed their appreciation by over the counter sales. 

You shouldn’t shy away from giving recipes, cocktail methods or other little tips away on social media. Turn it into a challenge – asking people to recreate something from your menu, perhaps with a dine-in voucher as a reward – or just to foster a healthy dose of home-cooking and competition amongst your followers. Your customers will appreciate that you’re thinking outside of the box and giving them a way they can create a little bit of your magic at home.

Image is everything

Mark Calabro, the founder of HungryHungry, says that success for his company can be attributed, at least in part, to digitising menus to look like an Instagram feed. It must be said that beautiful images convert. Airbnb saw this uptick when they started offering professional photographers to shoot their customer’s homes as opposed to just letting them their own homes with whatever excuse for a camera they had. Take this learning to your own social media. It’s worth investing in stunning shots of whatever you’re offering. Whether it’s using the best iPhone between you and your staff or investing in a professional food photographer and stylist, do the best with what you and your budget can allow. 

Related: Marketing for restaurants and cafes with Mark Calabro from Hungry Hungry

See below for some apps that will help you in this department.

Image Source: Dear St Eloise

Image Source: Three Blue Ducks

There’s an app for that

Let technology help you out when it comes to social media. Here are a few apps you need to know about that will help you with everything from scheduling to creating content.

Metigy’s marketing objectives, daily to-do actions, insights and recommendations make Social Media Marketing for Restaurants and cafes a breeze. It’s like having your own digital strategist telling you day-in, day-out, not only what to do, but why and how to do it. Metigy helps you make the tough marketing decisions based on insights and data-driven AI technology.

We’ve preached about Canva’s ability to take your social media marketing from meh to yeah on here before, and we’ll do it again. It allows you to be the graphic designer that you wish you could be, with brilliant social media templates allowing you to post a plethora of content with beautiful fonts, layouts, borders, illustration and more. 

Everyone loves a GIF, so give the people what they want. Everything you need to make the perfect GIF is in this app. Nuff said. ProTip: commit to the $7.99 paid version as noone wants an ugly watermark ruining your picture in their Instagram feed. 

Community building

Dining should be social – sharing a moment with a friend, breaking bread with a loved one, family or colleagues, or celebrating with a whole group of people. 

Your followers follow you for a reason, and that’s what they have in common. You have your own little community right there following you, so foster this. What value can you bring to them? Invites to intimate events? Sneak peaks at new menus? The opportunity to suggest new flavours.

Shoot. Reuse. Recycle. 

Get more bang for your buck with maximising your content. Say you’re shooting a long-form video, you can use this to make smaller gifs or 10-15 second edits specifically for social media. Or if you’re doing a stills shoot for your website or menu, reuse these images in GIFS or emails. And don’t forget Instagram Stories. These can be less curated posts, shot on the fly, but ensuring that you’re reaching where your audience is spending their time.

Related: How to repurpose content for social media

Your content can be brought to life in a multitude of ways, so don’t sell yourself short.

Bon Appetite!

Mark from HungryHungry outlines that so many people pursue a hospitality business to share their talents, so it’s a really emotionally driven business, but without a strategic business approach then the talents will be wasted. Social Media Marketing for restaurants and cafes may take a little time to nail, but you will be rewarded when you do. 

What Social Media Marketing techniques have you tried for your Restaurants or Cafe? What are you going to try from the above ideas? Let us know in the comments section below.

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