23 Social Media Ideas for Restaurants

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You have business accounts for your restaurant on all of them, but how do you keep up with posting fresh content on a consistent basis?  

At Society Insurance, I have been responsible for coming up with generating new ideas for our social media channels every day for the past three years, so I know firsthand how challenging it can sometimes be to come up with new ideas. To help you out, I’ve put together a list of 23 social media ideas for you to use in the new year. 

23 Social Media Ideas for Restaurants

1. Invite a food blogger or “food-tographer” with a social media presence to your restaurant.

Yes, there is such a thing as a “food-tographer.” Don’t believe me? Check out these photos from one of my college peers. Ask if you can comp their meal in exchange for them taking photos of your restaurant and some of your best menu items.  

Share behind-the-scenes photos of them at your restaurant and post something that leaves people wondering and encourages them to interact with the post such as: “Had a special guest in today.  Any guesses who?” Share or retweet the posts from the person’s page to your page once posted.  For Instagram, I suggest using the Repost app. Be sure to ask for digital copies and a photo release for all the photos and/or videos taken and scatter them throughout the year. 

2. Share the story behind your restaurant.

What is your restaurant best known for? Take a moment to think about that question. As simple or as elaborate as the story may be, social media users love human interest stories.

Was the recipe passed down through the family?  Share an old photo of your family. Where did the name come from?  Share a photo that relates.

3. Post upcoming events to Facebook.

Many people use the events feature of Facebook to make their plans for their nights and weekends, so make sure to utilize this function for your business as well.

4. Launch a birthday club.

At the first of every month, create a post that offers a special to anyone celebrating a birthday that month. Encourage people to interact with the post by accompanying the post with a caption like “Know a special someone celebrating a birthday this month?  Tag them below to let them know about this special!” If there is a signup link on your website, share the link!

5. Highlight special holidays.

Many restaurants offer specials to select customers on national holidays, but have you thought of offering special promotions on lesser-known holidays?  One of my favorite sites to use to identify these holidays is BrownieLocks

Perhaps on January 13, which is Rubber Ducky Day,  you post to your channels a picture of a duck pond (think carnival game) at your restaurant filled with rubber ducks that each. have a promotion on the bottom of them (10% off, 25% off, free drink, free dessert, etc).  Encourage customers to come to your restaurant with the promise of picking a duck at the end of the meal.

6. Ask people to help design your menu and/or next special.

Make it into a contest because there’s not many people that don’t love a good contest.

This could be as simple as “What would you like to see on the menu at (insert restaurant name)?” Choose your favorite option or make a random choice. Winner gets a coupon for that entrée once it hits the menu.

Or you could add an extra layer of fun by giving them a food item and/or set of items: “We feel like making something with chicken and cheese to serve as a special this month.  What should we make?”  

Take it to the next level by creating a bracket-style tournament to choose the winner. In the past, I’ve used Facebook’s poll feature to host the individual match-ups (you could use Twitter and/or Instagram too as they have similar features) and Challonge  (it’s free) to keep track of the results.

7. Host a GIF drop.

Create a simple prompt such as: “How’s your Monday?  Explain by posting a GIF in the comments!” or “What would you do if you won a $50 gift card from (insert restaurant name)?  Post a GIF of your reaction below!”

8. Showcase a local cause.

How does your restaurant give back to the community? Giving back to your community presents an opportunity to positively position your restaurant. Community members want and NEED to know how much you’re doing behind the scenes. Does your restaurant donate food to a homeless shelter or food bank?  Make sure to take photos and share the good work you’re doing!

Consider hosting a guest server or family night at your restaurant to raise money and share the details on your social accounts. Bonus tip: Make sure to share the photos during the event and the results when it’s over!

Keep track of every time you donate something, and then write a post and/or press release at the end of the year commemorating your efforts.  For example, “Did you know in 2020, (insert restaurant name) donated over ($x,xxx) to local causes in the form of food, gift cards and merchandise?  We love to give back to our customers and our community.”  I think many people would be surprised to know the amount that some restaurants give to others. A good rule of thumb is to make this a quarterly occurrence on social media—too frequent and it could be viewed as too self-promotional.

9. Cross-promote local events & businesses.

It’s important to remember that “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” Now I’m not saying to start posting your neighboring restaurant’s specials to your Facebook page every week, but maybe next week the coffee shop down the street is donating all their tips to the local fire department. Share that! And then maybe the next time you’re doing something in the community, they will be inclined to share your post. What goes around comes around!

10. Feed local thought leaders and influencers.

Bring a new menu item to the local radio/tv station or host a spaghetti dinner for the local sports team making a championship run.  Make sure you or the recipient (or both) document to share on social!

11. Share information about restaurant week.

Are you participating in an upcoming local restaurant week? There are a variety of simple ways to promote this on your social media channels!

Add the event created by the hosting organization to your Facebook page.Click here to see the directions on how to do this, directly from Facebook. Share the link to the restaurant week’s website.If available, share the link that goes directly to your restaurant’s menu.Make sure to highlight your unique selling proposition (USP). What makes your restaurant different from all the rest? Chances are there are many things right in front of you at your restaurant that could tell a great story on social media.

For example, do you have outdoor seating? Do you have art on the walls from local artists? Was your bar crafted from old barn wood? Did a customer gift you something with your business’s name on it? 

12. Share your positive reviews.

Share your positive reviews and ask for more from satisfied customers! As a restaurant, you likely have many reviews on Google and Yelp (even if you haven’t claimed your pages). 

Google makes marketing easy and has a variety of materials ready for you to download. Not only can you download graphics of your 5-star reviews, you can also create graphics advertising your hours and request window stickers. Just click here and enter your business’s name to get started! Yelp has a less robust way for sharing reviews, but you can do it by following the directions here

13. Employee testimonials.

With the labor shortage in the restaurant industry being a recurring hot topic, ask one of your most outgoing employees if they would be willing to do a short video testimonial about working at the restaurant and encouraging people to apply. Testimonials can be used for more than just ramping up business.

14. Monitor and share media mentions.

Set up Google Alerts for yourself, your restaurant and any star employees. This way you never miss a beat when you or your restaurant appear in the news, or anywhere else that’s notable enough to be included in a web search. Share anything that positively promotes your restaurant!

Have you heard of Humans of New York? If not, you should check it out. This series is very popular and truly showcases the years-old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover and that everyone has a story to tell.Spin this concept and make it work for your restaurant. Who could you highlight? A long-time employee, a loyal customer, one of your suppliers?  See my spin-off:  Humans of Society

15. Share special occasions and milestones on your networks.

For your business. Are you celebrating a years-in-business milestone? Have you reached a noteworthy number of followers (1K, 2K, 3K, or more)? Have you been recognized by a prominent organization or individual?

For your customers. Restaurants are a place to celebrate a wide variety of life moments including birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, engagements and much more. Why not ask if you can capture these special moments and share them on your business page?

For yourself. Social media is a success because of the first word: social. Consumers like seeing the face behind the brand, so toot your horn occasionally. Highlight something as big as an award or as small as your favorite part of your restaurant.  

For your staff. Did your dishwasher just graduate high school? Did your summer waitress get accepted to the school of her dreams? Is your long-time cook retiring?

For your social/professional circles. Did your Kiwanis Club just donate books to an elementary school? Is your daughter getting married? Did you just join an association that you’re excited about? Just stay away from politics and other super controversial topics, as they may start a thread of unwanted comments.

16. Create videos. 

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have the capability to produce live videos. If you’re hesitant to create these yourself, ask a social media-savvy employee you trust if they would be interested in creating one. Good things to talk about/show in live videos include weekly/daily specials, what beers you have on tap, and special events/entertainment. 

Use the boomerang feature on Instagram in the kitchen. Something as simple as stirring a pot or lighting the stove could make an awesome video. Pair it with a simple and interactive caption such as: “Stirring up the soup of the day. Any guesses on what kind it is?” There are also a variety of fun filters that you can use to switch it up a bit!

Have some fun and use pop culture to your advantage. Many big restaurants like to troll from their corporate accounts, but I haven’t seen many local restaurants do this. While franchises have more restaurants and a higher marketing budget, local restaurateurs should always look for opportunities to act quickly and appropriately play into trends.

17. Capitalize on the 2020 election year. 

I strongly discourage posting your political views, but there are ways to use this to your advantage and be playful on social media. You could post things like, “LIKE THIS PIZZA PHOTO. Why?  Because it has nothing to do with politics” or “We can’t stop the political ads on tv, but we can offer 2-for-1 drinks tonight from 4-6 p.m.”  Most people will enjoy the light-hearted humor.

18. Television premieres, finales and events.

These happen year-roundand are often harmless fun. Criminal Minds and Supernatural are both airing their final seasons in 2020. There’s also a Friends special, season 24 of The Bachelor and the 2020 Summer Olympics. Lots of opportunities to put your creative hat on and build social content.

19. FAQs.

What are some common questions you get at your restaurants?  What are your hours? What sizes of sides do you have?  Do you only accept certain methods of payment?Share the questions and answers on social!

20. Merchandise for sale.

If your restaurant sells any items that guests can take with them after enjoying a meal at your restaurant, promote that on your social media. This could include t-shirts, homemade pies, gift cards, your house dressing, etc.

21. Third party delivery.

Are there alternative ways to enjoy your restaurant other than dining in? According to theNational Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, nearly four in 10 adults—including 50 percent of millennials—say they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago. 

Have you hopped on the delivery bandwagon? With a variety of options like GrubHub, DoorDash, and PostMates, eight in 10 fine-dining and casual-dining operators and two-thirds of family-dining operators say they use a third-party provider (of table service operators that offer delivery).  If you’re one of these restaurants, promote this service on social media. Chances are, many of these apps have a variety of marketing materials already created for you to plug and play on your social channels.

22. Pop-up restaurants.

Are you serving your food at a local festival or another off-site location?  If it’s something that’s open to the public, it should be shared through your networks before, during and after.  If it’s not public, share it later and thank the customers after the fact.

23. Green policies & local sourcing.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, 51 percent of adults—including 58 percent of millennials—say the availability of environmentally friendly food makes them more likely to choose one restaurant over another.

Is your restaurant implementing practices that are environmentally friendly? Paper straws, zero waste cooking, and chemical-free cleaning are all things that you could highlight on social. Do you locally source food items? You could create a live video or boomerang (idea 16) at the farm or garden of the food being gathered.  You could take a photo (or a video) of the food producer and ask them a few questions about the item.

Want more ideas? Check out this Complete Guide to Social Media for Restaurants & Bars by Sprout Social. It also includes some additional insights and examples.  

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Coming up with new post ideas is only half the battle when it comes to a good social media strategy. To stay on top of your social media strategy, I suggest creating a content calendar. As Brian Tracy once said: “One minute of planning saves 10 minutes of execution.”

For Society Insurance, we house our calendar in Google Sheets so that multiple people can access it and add content. We use a social media template similar to this one. However, not one size fits all, so feel free to find a template/method that works best for you and your restaurant! Happy posting!

Interested in learning more on restaurant related topics? Read our restaurant blog series or contact a local Society agent near you for specific questions about restaurant insurance coverage.

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