How do you build a successful restaurant in the digital age? Thanks to an unpredictable economy having a devastating effect on the restaurant business in recent years, embarking on a new startup venture can leave you feeling apprehensive and fearful.
In contrast, social media continues to grow in popularity. Instagram and Snapchat, in particular, are two of the platforms where people like to share snapshots of their lives, including what they eat - something restaurants can take advantage of.
With social media offering a lot of potential to restaurants looking to grow their business, isn’t it time you grabbed a slice of the pie?
Get tips on how to build a restaurant that appeals to the social media crowd below.
The build-up is an important part of creating a sense of anticipation that leaves social media users wanting more. Rather than creating a strategy for after your opening, use it to these your restaurant instead.
Grow your followers
Starting from zero can feel like there’s a major uphill battle ahead for you. However, with the right tactics to grow your social media followers, you can soon start booking those numbers. Even if you can’t reveal much yet, tease a launch date or the outside of your new restaurant. Start getting used to posting regularly as posting three times a day on Instagram is seen as one of the ways to grow your following.
To help you understand how often and when you should be posting to social media, take a look at this handy social posting guide from guru Neil Patel, that’s packed with relevant information.
Keep it local
Having loads of followers is great, but if they’re not based locally - they’re not much use to your business at the moment. Focusing on building followers who could actually visit your restaurant is important, so try to use local hashtags and geotagging as much as possible to keep that local angle.
If your feed is looking a bit bare, build a connection with your followers by photographing local sites and landmarks and adding them to your feeds. There are some cool photography tricks for your phone that mean you don’t have to spend a fortune on a professional camera or editing equipment to take photographs that will delight your audience. Mixing up photos from your business as well as those of the local area will help people build more of an association with your restaurant and will make you feel like a bigger part of the community.
Spread the word
As your restaurant launch grows closer, you’ll want to start putting the word out on social media. When people leave you a comment asking about the restaurant, reply to them and tell them to come along. Meanwhile, you can also connect with other local business to help get them involved in spreading the word.
One of the biggest marketing tools available to you online at the moment is the influencer crowd. Rather than focusing on big influencers (unless they live in your area), focus on those with a smaller, but loyal following who could be your biggest allies in spreading the word about your business. Learn how to approach micro-influencers and how to work with them to help mutually boost your online presence.
Making a big deal out of your launch not only celebrates your incredible achievement, but it also gives you more excuses to push great content out on social media.
Seek reviews (and not from the typical critics)
After building a connection with local influencers, invite them along to your launch event. It could be a chance to sample the food or a launch party - something that will get them talking. The prospect of a free feed is not something that many will sniff at, so it can be a relatively affordable way for you to get some coverage for your restaurant.
If you did want to put some more money behind your influencers efforts, you could always talk to the blogger community. Striking up sponsorship deals with local bloggers can be a way to guarantee coverage for your restaurant, as well as some high-quality content. Approach food bloggers and lifestyle bloggers as these will be the most relevant to your business. Fashion and beauty bloggers may also dabble in food or social event-related content, so doing some research could reveal some suitable candidates.
Learn how to engage
Social media is all about connecting, and you’ll get more value from your social media presence if you take the time to engage with your followers. There are some good methods of engaging with your social media followers that include responding to comments, commenting on others’ photos and posts as well as featuring them in your content. Engagement goes a long way, and it can help to show that you’re a great business that loves to connect with its customers.
Reiterate your key information
While a lot of your social content can involve posting about things that are currently happening, make sure you regularly schedule more basic content too. Information about opening hours, your menu and your website can help develop brand recording with potential customers that will help them to remember you next time they’re looking to dine out.
If you don’t have the capacity to create exciting social content yourself, you could always hire an agency or a freelancer to take care of your scheduling for you. A graphic designer is a great asset to have to produce stunning visual content, while content managers are perfect for putting the building blocks in place and drafting your messaging.
Post-launch is where he hard work truly begins for your business. You will need an ongoing strategy to ensure your online presence increases and to keep your content consistent.
Step up your photography game
Good visuals are important in the world of social media, but even more so where food is concerned. While natural photos look more authentic, you can’t beat throwing in a staged photo now and then to showcase your best dishes.
Taking good food photography is reliant on a different factors. Good lighting and apertures are essential for creating that professional look, but good preparation is a must too. The right tools can help create that flawless finish that will take your food presentation to the next level. Having an overview of skinning machine equipment for fish or pasta-cutting tools can help you to make good purchasing decisions that could significantly improve the presentation of your food in photographs, as well as the customer’s place setting. Good photography takes practice, but you will soon get the hang of it.
Create engaging content
To help you continue to grow your profile online, you’ll need to develop an excellent content strategy. To make a splash online, your content needs to be engaging and eye-catching - something that your audience will want to see. There’s no formula for creating good content, but there are different approaches to creating content that people will want to share.
You can experiment with different types of content to see what kind of things get your followers talking. Video is growing in popularity across all platforms and could be an interesting way for your startup restaurant to make a splash. People enjoy to see ‘behind the scenes’ content, so if you have anything you can offer that is different to the typical restaurant account, put it out there and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to try out different things - you never know what might take your social media profiles to new heights.
Use local targeting
The great thing about social media is that you can target your content. Social media advertising on Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter can help you push your content out to people within the local area and can even help you target people with different interests. Before you get started, make sure you read a guide to social media advertising to help you get the most out of your advertising spend.
Social media is a fantastic marketing tool that can be used for free to help you grow your business. Some of the most effective social media strategies require no spend, so you don’t need a high marketing budget to experience its benefits.
Have fun with it
While social media is a great business tool, it can also be fun! When you run a restaurant, most of the work you do will be related to bookkeeping and management and other tasks. Putting some work into your social media accounts, therefore, can allow you to indulge your creative side and do something new as part of your role.
Watching your social media account grow is a satisfying experience, and when that transpires into people coming through your door, you can really see the value of it. If you want to see some great examples of where you can go with your social media, check out these examples of top restaurants with first-class social media strategies. Start thinking about how you can appeal to the social media crowd and help turn your startup restaurant into a success.