How to use Instagram to sell your food in 2020

16 Jul 2020 by Pauline Gabrielli

Photo by Eaters Collective, Unsplash

30% of Millenials avoid a restaurant with a weak Instagram presence

Since the creation of Instagram, everyone’s been doing food photography. There are now over 327 million posts on Instagram tagged #food. If they’re all doing it, why shouldn’t you? If you’re cooking and selling the food yourself, you ought to get some of the credit by posting it on your own account!

Every restaurant owner knows that the number one thing you need is customers, and customers love to look at their food in advance. In fact, according to The Independent, each year millennials spend on average a full 5 days browsing food on Instagram, and 30% say they’d avoid a restaurant with a weak Instagram presence. And in today's climate, online orders are going to be all about what photos are shown online! 

You have to reach this, your largest target audience, by really mastering your approach to an Instagram account as a form of restaurant marketing. So here at Meero, we’ve cooked up some advice on how to use Instagram to get your restaurant packed. Here’s what’s on the menu.

Let’s start with an amuse-bouche: talk to your followers

You want to really reach out and engage your followers. Make descriptions of the image that are interesting or funny - you don’t have to be a real comedian about it, but show viewers you have a personality!  

Why not try asking questions to your audience - if you’ve got 2 dishes and can’t tell which looks the best, how about posting both and asking the followers? Make it clear you’re interested in interacting with those following your work.

Head chefs and other staff can also use Instagram to let people know about the meal of the day, or you can offer deals for loyal followers, etc. Remember to coordinate on a weekly or monthly basis how you’re interacting with customers online to keep the content going.

The more you engage with them, the more traffic your posts get, and the more traffic you get, the more people will be tempted by what you have on offer.

Moving on to a glass of the house red: use your hashtags wisely

Hashtags are important on Instagram because they open your posts up to a wider, international audience. You can get your photos to ride waves of popularity, or enter larger bases of content where anyone could pick them up.

You want a selection of words, maybe even a phrase, or just key points that will be most likely to be searched by your target audience. And of course, you can put as many of these down as you want.

You need to make sure your hashtags really specify who you are and what you’re doing. If you’re too vague, you could just get lost. #pizza, for example, puts you right into a backdrop of 3.8 million other posts already gaining traction. As a rule, try around 5 general themes, 5 specific tags, and 5 location-based tags. Something like #nwdallaswings will hit its target more effectively than #chicken, for example.


For a starter, we have: maintain good photo quality

This one is important. You absolutely don’t want to be taking all of your photo content on your phone using the Instagram app. The lighting will be off, the editing given by the app will look strange, and the quality will be low.

The purpose of using Instagram is for your stuff to look appetizing. Grainy, askew photos that show the food in low light won’t get you anywhere.

You can either take a photo on your phone and edit it yourself using apps, or use a DSLR camera and photographer then upload the photos by tablet or phone. Make sure you don’t use too many filters to keep the food looking natural. You also want to work on the angles of the food to show it in its best light. It’s a complicated task, so we’d personally recommend looking into professional photographers for your online image.


food photography


The main course: work to get accounts with a large following like food bloggers involved

If you make serious links with food bloggers, review sites or other people already in the food photography business, you can easily use this to boost your numbers of customers. This is all about your restaurant marketing, of course, which means working with people already in the business. Whether it’s through offering them a free meal to cover your work, tagging them in photos or crowdsourcing their photos for your account, it means their already existing fans will instantly be redirected to you.

Find accounts that are tailored to your market, interact with their work by liking and commenting on their page, messaging them through the app or finding an email address, and get talking. It works both ways: by making professional links they’re giving more credibility to their work as well.

Photo by Randy Tarampi, Unsplash

Moving on to the cheeseboard: keep posts on a regular, frequent schedule

It’s important to keep a constant flow of content, but there isn’t really a ‘right time’ to be posted. It’s all about finding how your content is impacting people while you’re using it, and finding a natural routine to posting. Here are a couple of words of advice anyway:

-Look at how your competition is doing. What times do they post, what days, and how frequently?

-If you use an Instagram business account (which, if you’re on the app for your restaurant, you really should) have a look at the Insights tool that comes with the package. It will tell you what times in the day your customers are online, active, and engaging with your content.

-Carry out tests and analyze the results. After a while, you’ll be able to tell the right times to publish photos with the best reach.

For dessert: remember to use Instagram stories!

Stories not only make sure you’re always at the top of someone’s newsfeed: they work as fantastic advertising what your restaurant’s up to without having to pay a dime.

The concept is simple: you can post as many pictures, videos, or text as you want, and they’ll be stored at the top of the Instagram newsfeed for any to see for the next 24 hours.

This means they’re great for promotions, special offers or events to get an immediate reach of customers right to you. You can post a huge range of content using these stories as well: gifs, geotags, links, hashtags, sound, etc, etc, and you can archive them on your profile for people to see later if one of the stories really takes off. It’s a pretty dynamic medium.

Dessert photo phone

Photo by Christian FregnanUnsplash

And the finishing cup of coffee: take pictures of the staff too

It’s nice to give a sense of community to your work. It may not be showing any of your products or your work, but a large part of the restaurant experience is, of course, the atmosphere! With pictures of the staff, you can really show the kind of service and welcome they would receive at your establishment. 

That’s what Instagram is really good for: showing the human side of your company. Because a warm and friendly environment is far more likely to draw in customers.

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