The Ultimate Guide To Instagram For Restaurant Professionals

Written by:

Adam Guild

Last Updated

October 18, 2023

In this guide, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know to bring real, paying customers into your restaurant using Instagram.

This is a step-by-step playbook that you can do yourself or hire someone to do for you.

I’ll show you what REAL Instagram success looks like for restaurants and walk you through every single step you need to take in order to turn Instagram into a profitable marketing channel.

Why Instagram For Restaurants?

But first, one important question: why focus on building your restaurant Instagram?

There are countless benefits to the platform. Some of them include…

  • Make more money. People use Instagram to make restaurant buying decisions.
  • Stay top of mind. Being active will help you remind fans to come to your restaurant.
  • Get introduced to new customers in your area who love restaurants.

In fact, 24% of people report checking a restaurant’s Instagram before deciding to go there.

The best part? It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it.

I would know, having built multiple Instagram accounts to over 100,000 followers each by training a team with no prior experience. Plus, I’ve helped restaurants explode their Instagram presence in the past and go viral locally as a result.

While it took years for me to learn by myself, now that I understand the fundamentals, I can share those with you...

And you can train your team members to manage it for you, effectively as free marketing.

Just send them this guide and they’ll have everything they need to help you succeed.

To summarize: Instagram is the best social media channel for restaurants. Hands down.

If you’re ready to learn how to use it like the very best, read on...

And get ready to have your mind blown. I’m getting excited just typing this out.

We’ll start with your profile since it’s the part of your page which will be the most frequently viewed and affect how your brand is perceived by the people who view it.

So first, we’ll dive into the basics…

Restaurant Instagram Username

For your username, keep it simple. Set a strategic username which is short, easy to spell, and has no additional special characters. Something like @tacobell or @dominos is best.

Instagram for restaurant

If your restaurant name is taken, though, as they often are – try adding "restaurant" to the end of your username to improve your profile’s performance.

@tacobellrestaurant @dominosrestaurant

Instagram tips for restaurants

DON’T use your restaurant name and location because this will make it hard.

And DON’T create an Instagram account for each location if you have multiple. It’s vital to concentrate your energy on building the single best profile for your brand, rather than several.

Why? Because Instagram gives more exposure to profiles that have a lot of engagement naturally. This is how Instagram influencers attain so many followers. If you don’t concentrate your follower count on one profile then you don’t get the Instagram benefits that come from having multiple locations.

Profile Name

Keep it simple. Just make your profile name your restaurant name.

Profile Picture

For your profile, we’ll also keep it simple.

DON’T set your profile picture to be your logo.

Contrary to what almost every restaurant does, we’ve tested this.

And in our internal study across 5 different test restaurant Instagram accounts, profiles with delicious food pictures as their profile picture (rather than logos) got 28% more profile visits than profile pictures that used the restaurant’s logo.

Why is this? Because making food your profile picture best communicates your primary value proposition from the market’s perspective: delicious food and a fun experience.

While setting a logo as a profile picture may feed the ego for a restaurant and seem like a good “branding” exercise, if we’re judging entirely by traction, it’s time to ditch the logo for a food picture.

And not just any food picture. But one edited using the top performing style that is described later in this piece in the Content section.

The style that drives the most engagement. The trick that almost all food influencers use to go viral. The style that brands like Domino’s Pizza and Shake Shack have secretly figured out.

That’s coming later, though. For now, get a great picture of your signature food and get ready to edit it to use it as your profile picture to boost your profile visits and revenue earned from Instagram.

Screenshot of Instagram profile picture

Instagram Biography

Now that we’ve got username and profile picture covered, it’s time for the most important part.

This part will single-handedly play the largest role in making or breaking your follower count.

It is your Instagram account’s description. Or, in Insta-speak, biography.

Most restaurants do this VERY long and get penalized as a result by reduced follower count.

The trick? Study what influencers are doing.

And what the most successful influencers do is they basically describe their features and then CALL the user to action. In this case, a follow.

What that means in English, and specifically with restaurants, is to list describe your restaurant’s value proposition in simple terms and then describe the benefit which would come from following you.

So here’s an example…

Let’s go back to Domino’s Pizza, because they seem to be hailed the best at restaurant marketing (despite getting this mostly wrong).

They use the biography: The recognized world leader in pizza delivery.

How to write your restaurant's Instagram bio

And that statement is a great start, because it frames them in the user’s mind as the best...

Let’s start similar to Domino’s, except build a version for your restaurant.

Make the first statement in your bio “The Best Type Restaurant In City”

For example: “The Best Pizza Restaurant In Los Angeles”

This simple statement will increase your follower count on its own over time.

Because it uses a cognitive bias called anchoring.

Which is a fancy term for ensuring your brand is perceived as the best as the user scrolls through your profile. And, because humans are heavily influenced by the first statement they read about a brand, that simple line (and this is why Domino’s uses something similar) will drastically improve how your brand is perceived.

The studies on this are clear.

Once you’re perceived as the best, you’ll have more pricing freedom and organically get more followers, which you can leverage to make more money.

But it’s missing sharing the key factors that customers choose restaurants based on.

Factors like… friendly service, fun experience, Easy parking, and delicious food.

So add a few of those statements in. The ones that best describe your restaurant and that affect people’s buying decisions. Statements like…

Delicious Type Food. Friendly Service. Passionate Team. Fun Experience. Easy Parking.

It’s also missing telling the user what to do next. And when you make people think about what to do, rather than sharing an easy next step, follows drop off.

In this case, we want the user to follow the account (so that you stay top of mind and can reach other users due to their engagement on the post). So we’ll end off the bio with something simple like…

Tap Follow For Delicious Food, Secret Specials, and To Join Our Fun Community.

So the whole profile will look something like this...

Instagram for Restaurant

Business Account

One last step. Convert your Instagram account into a business account (if it’s not already) to get access to the numbers that measure how well your performing.

Making the switch is very easy and free. Navigate to your profile on the Instagram mobile app, go to Account Settings, and click “Switch To Business Profile”.

Switch to restaurant business account on Instagram

Boom – that’s it. That will give you access to key numbers like how many calls and website visits your Instagram has driven.

You’ve now got the best recipe for your profile.

Watch your follower count soar as you implement these improvements and master your...


Now for the part you’ve been waiting for: posting.

What should you post? When should you post? How should you post?

Let’s spend a few minutes and answer all of your questions using the insight that has been sculpted over the last 5 years in building hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple Instagram accounts. Ready to go?

First, it’s extremely important to...

Maintain A Consistent Post Frequency

That’s right. Post often. More importantly, post at a schedule where your audience can expect to hear from you and would miss you if you weren’t in their feed.

On Instagram, you should aim to post 1 to 2 times per day.

More than expecting to hear from you, though, your followers should be glad you posted.

And you can do that by skipping to this guide on posting valuable restaurant content…

VALUE HACK: Syndicate your content to Facebook and Twitter using the Instagram post settings. Inform your audience on several platforms using the same quality content.

Simply navigate to your Instagram post settings and ensure Facebook and Twitter are both selected as shown below.

Screenshot of how to cross post from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter

Next, it’s important to use strategic hashtags on each of your posts.

Hashtags which will generate more interested locals to your page, and eventually, help convert them into new customers for your restaurant.

So, what exactly are these hashtags and what’s the best way to use them?

Well, here are the top 5 performing hashtags on Instagram for restaurants, that each of your posts should include…

  • #restaurant
  • #food
  • #foodie
  • #foodporn
  • #instafood
Restaurant Hashtags on Instagram

In addition, you should include these hashtag types that are specific to your location…

  • #yourcity
  • Example: #westhollywood
  • #yourcityvariations
  • Example: #weho #wehofood
  • #yourstreet
  • Example: #sunsetblvd
  • #yourestaurantnamehere
  • Example: #dominos

With hashtags, it’s important to leave them out of the caption (because they look ugly and distract from your message) and instead post them onto the first comment.

Instagram for restaurant

That way, you immediately get a comment on your post (boom) and you reap the same benefits as if the hashtags were in your caption itself.

SCHEDULE HACK: One more important hack to cover.

You can use apps like SproutSocial and Instaschedule to schedule your post in advance.

Why is that awesome?

Because you can bulk upload your content, for weeks or months at a time, and set it to automatically post at the best times for your audience – rather than manually having to set an alarm to achieve the same great outcome.

Get Your Timing Right

With posts, timing is critical. Specifically, it’s important that you set your posts to perform at the highest engagement hours for your restaurant type.

For Instagram engagement, studies show that these are the best hours to post at…

  • Sunday: 3:00 PM
  • Monday: 5:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 3:00 PM
  • Thursday: 3:00 PM
  • Friday: 4:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM

PROTIP: You can use the schedulers mentioned above to automatically post at the highest engagement hours. More engagement means more views on your post. That leads to more followers and more new customers for you – for the exact same effort.

As they say, timing is everything.

How do we know? Well, there has been study after study which confirms these findings. People are the most active and engaged on Instagram during these hours, which paves the way for viral content.


Now for the fun part: the content posting itself.

The most important thing for all of your content is to build around sharing emotions.

“What’s that?” – you may be thinking.

Science shows that certain emotions get people to share content and take more action.

And it’s possible to evoke those emotions using your posts, ensuring increased virality and more new customers overall.

It turns out that the most viral emotions are awe, wonder, and excitement. They get people jazzed up and incite discussion by definition.

Best photos for Instagram

So, by building your content around these sharing emotions, you can virtually guarantee greater exposure and awareness in your market.

Some ideas that come to mind are delicious and beautiful photos of food (wonder), photos of your team which showcase their stories and how being on your team has improved their life (awe), and photos of upcoming specials and giveaways (excitement).

What should you post on your restaurant Instagram?

It’s important to remember that people buy from people, not companies.

So be human, be vulnerable, and help your customers relate to your organization.

Focus On Mouth-Watering Food Photos

Instagram post of food served in a unique way

Dayum! Nothing is better than seeing a delicious pizza or beautiful burger on Instagram.

These posts get the highest engagement and are the most likely to go viral for Instagram.

What does that mean? It means you need to F-O-C-U-S on these high performing puppies.

Take lots of pictures of your beautiful foods. LOTS. And prepare them for comments…

“But Adam...” you may be thinking, “what do we caption so many photos of food?”

Fortunately for you, I am a mind reader (and crazy generous).

So I made a database of over 100 different food captions you can use for any food picture.

They’re human, they’re cute, they’re relatable, and they’re proven.

Proven meaning they’ve all gone viral in the past.

You can access it, and get caption inspirations or outright copy and paste the captions, here.

Aside from mouth-watering food pics, though, there’s one other type of content which does super well on restaurant Instagrams. And that is…

Share Team Photos

People like buying from people. And showing your biggest asset, your friendly and welcoming team, is a great way to both attract new customers and increase visit frequency with current customers.

So snap a few pictures of your team in action. Pictures of your servers working passionately to deliver a great experience to your customers. Pictures of your cooks preparing each dish to perfection. Pictures of your manager engaging with guests and ensuring their experience is awesome.

Restaurant staff post on Instagram

And your team does not have to be composed of just supermodels, either. If anything, people who look average are more relatable to potential customers and help build a more real and authentic connection.

So, we’ve covered food photos and team photos.

There’s one other category of post worth mentioning. And it is C-R-A-Z-Y effective if used in moderation.

Host Giveaways

Wow! I can just feel the excitement that comes from a giveaway as I type this blog post.

Instagram giveaways are an AMAZING way to engage your audience, to generate word of mouth customers, and to build brand loyalty among your current fanbase.

Basically, just set an irresistible prize.

Instagram for restaurant

Some of the ones I’ve seen work super well in the past are…

Free All-You-Can-Eat Sushi For One Year

Free Pizza, Jumbo Size

50% Off All Food For 1 Week

Regardless of the item, though, giveaways create tension among audiences and inspire friendly competition.

So, here’s the best way to do them…

  1. Select a worthwhile prize
  2. Create a simple giveaway caption
  4. Crazy Giveaway Opportunity This Week.
  5. Limited Time Offer. Winner Announced Sunday.
  6. Tag 3 Friends In The Comments To Enter To Win
  7. Select a winner

See how simple it is? And it WORKS LIKE CRAZY. Seriously.

We’ve seen restaurants generate over 1000 new customer opportunities through simple giveaways like the one above. They’re also the best posts to paid boost to your local community, because they’re so tempting for everyone to participate in, but we’ll discuss that some other time.

Now that we’ve got the content types down, we’ll cover...

How should your restaurant Instagram look?

What if all of the top-performing food pages on Instagram, restaurants and influencers alike, all used a very similar look to achieve their success...

Would it be useful to you to understand how they did it, so that you could use it on your own restaurant and watch your engagement skyrocket?

Turns out, that’s the case. And I’ve got the secret sauce for you right now.

Or in this case, secret filter.

Check out this before and after…

Food photography for Instagram

Can you tell which one performs best on Instagram? Which would you rather eat?

Well, it turns out that the top performing influencers and restaurant pages, like Domino’s and Shake Shack and the influencers with millions of followers all use an aesthetic similar to picture 2.

So, here’s how you can do it for your own restaurant photos. It’s super simple and does not require extraordinary editing or photoshop abilities. Just follow these steps below.

  1. Download the Snapseed app for iPhone or Android
  2. Crop by following the “rule of thirds” and using a square aspect ratio (available in Snapseed) to emphasize the best part of the photograph
  3. If it’s a single dish photograph, crop in tight on almost entirely the food
  4. If it’s a multiple dish arrangement, crop to highlight the food of multiple dishes
  5. If it’s an ambiance shot, use your best judgment.
  6. Apply the following Snapseed settings
  7. Brightness +10
  8. Contrast +13
  9. Saturation +18
  10. Ambiance +10
  11. Warmth +7
  12. Save each photo to your camera roll by tapping EXPORT, SAVE A COPY
  13. Bam. Your masterpiece is complete. Now upload to Instagram and enjoy.

Now that we’ve got the look down, it’s important to crop the photo so that it performs best.

You should crop using a square (1:1) aspect ratio (your iPhone and Snapseed can both do this) to ensure your Instagram grid is uniform with the content you put out.

And pay attention to the rule of thirds. Sounds fancy and complicated, I know, but it’s actually super simple.

Basically, just make sure that each of the + intersections on the crop grid is touching the most important parts of the picture that you want the user to pay attention to. That’s it.

Screenshot of how to use the rule of thirds

Because, according to scientists studying eyes and the photographs, that’s how vision works. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the points at which the lines intersect.

And that’s why the crop grid that we always see is a real thing.

Bonus Content Hack: Repost customer content of your restaurant

One more idea for you to try. This one is HUGE in engaging your audience, getting more potential customers, and deepening your relationship with your current customer base.

To find posts, go to your restaurant location or the photos of your section on Instagram and simply screenshot the best pictures which you want to showcase to your audience at large.

Next, take those photos through the above editing process and posting process.

And, once your post is ready to go, tag your customer who took the picture on the post so that they get a notification of your repost, engage, and tell their friends.

Instagram for bars

That way, they get exposure for being posted on your page and you get them talking to their friends about how great you are for having acknowledged and shared their great experience.

Win, win win.

Next: a critical element of every post – the caption.

The caption is your opportunity to communicate with words, rather than with imagery, and tell your story.

A story is not just a tale like Little Red Riding Hood.

A story is a hint at what people can expect from you and your brand.

A story can be as simple as a picture of beautifully prepared food, captioned “made with love”.

The most important part of any of your communications is to…

Connect As A Human Being

Yes, that’s right. Again, people buy from people.

That means that your post and your caption should be intended to connect.

And it’s easy to connect on a shared love for delicious food. Or on equal admiration for your passionate, hard-working team.

So the important part is to connect as a human being.

Another critical part of captioning, and connecting, is to…

Ask Fun Questions

Social media is a platform for discussion and for two-way connection.

It’s not just a megaphone like a television. It’s a place to be social and share.

So ask your audience fun, relevant questions that are related to your content.

A perfect example of this would be asking your audience “what are your favorite toppings?” when posting a picture of one of your delicious, plain cheese pizzas.

Instagram for restaurant

Not only do these connections help you build more trust and like from your audience…

They also encourage the most factor to get your post to reach substantially more people: engagement.

According to the Instagram algorithm, the more comments you can score – the more people see your post. And not just any people. People that are like the person who commented, and who would probably love your restaurant as well because they’re similar to the people engaging.

It’s that simple.

Another great way to encourage participation, connection, discussion, and engagement is to…

Announce Special Promotions

Use your Instagram to announce your specials, your promotions, and your exclusive deals.

These are sure to get people excited and incentivize your regulars to follow you on Instagram, giving you more reach and more value each time you post.

Some restaurants have even gone as far as to create secret menus for their Instagram lovers.

And that strategy is genius because it helps people who follow your Instagram feel like they’re a part of something. A part of something scarce. A part of something valuable.

So, what do you do when you’ve exhausted your personalized captions, your question captions, and your special announcement captions?

Good news. We made a solution for that exact problem for you.

We created a database of over 100 captions for food pictures and over 100 captions

The best part? They work for all food pictures and all ambiance pictures, making it so that you never have to spend hours trying to come up with the best caption. Inspiration galore!

Here are some samples from the free database, which you can access here

General Food Captions

  • we think we’re in love
  • perfect fuel
  • good food, good mood
  • bliss on a plate
  • healthy + delicious
  • our famous [food name]
  • [food name] goals
  • food glorious food
  • [breakfast/lunch/dinner] goals
  • sign me up
  • [food emoji] [food name]
  • no words needed
  • made with love
  • fresh for your enjoyment
  • love for our [food name]
  • made to perfection
  • #foodgoals
  • good food, good life
  • a festival of flavors
  • good eats
Social media captions for restaurants
  • satisfy your taste
  • enjoy a taste of heaven
  • count the memories, not the calories
  • you gotta nourish to flourish
  •  goodies for the foodies
  • food is always a good idea
  • in the mood for food
  • savor the flavor

General Ambience Captions

  • morning mood
  • afternoon mood
  • evening mood
  • [happy/fun] vibe
  • vibes in our space
  • [location] vibe
  • no words needed
  • secret space
  • ambiance goals
  • the place to be
  • carpe diem
  • those details
  • perfection
  • scrumptious
  • take a seat, grab a treat
  • food vibes only
  • our happy place

Anyway, that part about connecting as a human being and engaging with your audience…

Turns out there’s a great hack just for that. It’s called…

Reply To Your Comments

Reply, reply, reply, reply, reply.

It is absolutely critical to your restaurant’s success on Instagram.

Yes, all comments on your posts must be replied to if you’re serious about using Instagram to drive revenue. And, if you don’t want to do it, find someone on your team who will.

Instagram post of restaurant replying to a follower's comment

Why is it so important? Because not only does it improve how people feel about your brand and give them a personal connection to ensuring your success…

It also helps you gain more exposure. That means more new followers.

And, excitingly, more potential customers for you.

How come? Because Instagram rewards you for having highly engaged content. And they determine engagement by looking at your like and comment counts on each post.

More likes and comments mean they show your post to more people. And not just your followers, complete strangers as well because those likes and comments indicate that people find you to be engaging and interesting.

What is Instagram’s goal if not to show users engaging and interesting content?

To fully understand Instagram, it’s important to cover two more features, which some restaurants have used to great success...

Instagram Stories For Restaurants

If you’re the type of person who believes in going 110% in everything you do, posting daily Instagram stories will be a must for you.

Stories are basically temporary 24 hours posts that get you additional opportunities for exposure.

Why are they so important? Because they keep you top of mind for people who are by definition bored, hungry a few times per day as human beings, and that already know like and trust you.

And you’re already paying a huge team of employees – from waiters to bussers to cooks to managers – so why not maximize their value by making contributing interesting and engaging stories part of their job description?

That way, you could crowd source it and maximize the productivity you’re getting out of the hourly wages you’re already paying. Staying top of mind among your super fans seems like an awesome way to maximize your revenue, right?

As for Instagram story content, just follow the same post guidelines above but vary the stories and post them daily. With stories, it could also be a good idea to submit quick videos showcasing your great environment. Get creative with it, the sky's the limit.

Repost Instagram stories on restaurants

Stories are basically a super easy, simple, free way to remind everyone who has cared about your brand at least once about your existence. And that is freaking awesome but it definitely adds some work. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is: is staying top of mind constantly plus being on their Instagram feed worth it for me?

Instagram Highlights For Restaurants

Restaurant Instagram Story Hack: Highlights

Upload story views of your beautiful restaurant and save them as “highlights”.

Highlights are basically permanent (not 24 hour) Instagram stories that can be accessed by people who are interested in learning more about your restaurant.

Instagram for Restaurant

And I’ve seen some restaurants find very clever ways to put these to use and maximize the amount of revenue driven by their Instagram.

One really clever way to leverage highlight to share your restaurant’s greatness is to create an Instagram highlight called “Tour”. From there, upload some beautiful images and video of your great space and happy guests. That way, when people find you on Instagram and are interested in getting a better understanding of your ambiance, they can virtually tour.

Another great idea is to use a highlight to showcase your famous dishes. The dishes that sell the most, that appeal to the most people, and that would be most likely to lure potential customers in. Dishes like burgers, tacos, and pizza are especially useful for this – because they’re among the world’s most popular foods and have such a broad appeal that most people who see them would recognize them and immediately begin craving them from your restaurant.

To summarize highlights: they’re a great way to give people a personalized look into what makes your restaurant great. I’d highly recommend setting them up if you believe in Instagram as a great marketing idea for your restaurant.

Instagram Live For Restaurants

Live is brave and bold. It’s either hit or miss: you’re either going to build deeply personal and valuable connections with your audience or weird them out with awkwardness.

That’s because Instagram live for restaurants is exactly what it sounds like: a live stream through your device’s camera and microphone of what’s happening your restaurant.

Definitely not for the faint of heart. But there are some ways to leverage Instagram live to build your connection with your fanbase and deeply connect on a personal level which simply cannot be matched by any of the other Instagram methods.

The best way I’ve seen Instagram live used by restaurants is the owners hopping on, being friendly, and basically doing a Q&A with their audience. That way, people can get questions answered about (one of) their favorite restaurants by the leaders in charge and begin to build a deeply personal connection with you. And, if you can form that connection with your restaurant’s fans, they will tell more people about you and visit more frequently because at that point they’ll feel like they “know” the owner – like what many of your regulars and top customers probably have in common.

In fact, if you’re willing to spend the time, that can be a huge differentiator and really help you build loyalty and true fans in your market. Because people will feel connected to you and excited to support you: human to human rather than human to brand. You can share your vision, your journey, and your challenges along the way to success.

Now that we’ve covered Instagram Live and Instagram Highlights, there’s one more hot topic to dive into for restaurant Instagram marketing...

Instagram Influencers For Restaurants

Influencers get a bad rep as being entitled, useless, and demanding.

But it turns out, that’s not the case.

In fact, if utilized correctly, Instagram influencers can take a restaurant from zero to hero.

Literally. One restaurant chain in California used Instagram food influencers to get massive and constant lines out the door. Founded in 2014, they already have 17+ locations and are growing rapidly, which is incredibly impressive to have accomplished in 3 years in the restaurant space.

Food influencers on Instagram

So, what are influencers?

Influencers are the people and Instagram pages with a lot of followers.

In the case of restaurants, food influencers are best (because their audiences are comprised of dedicated food lovers that are looking for the best places to eat).

Why are influencers so powerful?

Because millennials love them. 40% of people under the age of 24 trust influencer recommendations more than friends. And most admit that their favorite influencers have influenced their behavior.

And, how can you best utilize influencers?

Most Instagram food influencers will happily post for a free meal at your restaurant.

All you have to do is ask and offer a delicious meal in exchange. The bible put it best…

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” - Matthew 7:7

The best part? You get free, high-quality photography out of it to use at your own restaurant.

How do you know which Instagram influencers are right?

Here are the factor factors you evaluate on…

  • Average Engagement Per Post
  • Calculate the average likes and comments of their last 9 posts (not including their latest). If they’re not getting over 500 likes AND over 10 comments per post (on average), do not work with them. They’re not influential enough, period.
Instagram profile from a Las Vegas food influencer
  • Rates
  • Free is free. If you can get influencers with over 500 likes and 10 comments to come to your restaurant and post for free, they’re worth comping a meal for.
  • As a rule of thumb, pages getting over 2,000 likes per post on average should charge. If you can get them for free, take it immediately. Otherwise, a good general rule is to pay a maximum of $50 per 1000 likes.
  • Location
  • Are the pages followers specific to your city? This is CRITICAL. If they are global, national, or specific to a different city – do not even bother. Not worth it.
  • Fit
  • Do you think promoting your restaurant on this page would be a good fit? Would the content they post and their caption style be a good fit for your brand?

Plus thousands of people see it coming from a trusted source (IE the influencer they follow).

All at the cost of a comped meal, which is what you probably give unhappy customers anyway.

That said, some of the most popular food Instagram influencers in your area may demand cash payment. And that’s okay as long as their engagement justifies it.

Here’s how you evaluate whether Instagram accounts are worth paying with cash.

Instagram Influencer Hack For Restaurants: Most influencers are desperate for more paid promotion volume. You can take advantage of this by bargaining hard, lowballing, and getting insanely valuable promotional deals for a few dollars a post.

I’ve seen city-specific restaurant Instagram influencers with over 150,000 highly engaged followers (15,000 average likes, city-specific) get negotiated down to $50 per post. Each of those posts was driving hundreds of new followers to the restaurant and an average of 67 new customers. Cha-ching.

In terms of influencer content, let the Instagram influencer choose what to promote and how to promote it. They spend all day obsessing about how to best engage their audiences so their best guess on what will work with their followers is probably better than yours, and that’s ideal because the goal is to get your influencer content to go viral. Just make sure that they geotag your restaurant and tag you in the caption.

Because there’s so much variation with influencers, though, it’s important to note that there are no general rules. Use your best judgment in dealing with influencers and just understand that they can be extremely powerful when leveraged correctly.

Now that you’ve mastered what to do, it’s time to quickly cover what NOT to do.

3 Things To Avoid

Here’s a quick list you can use on the 3 things to avoid if you want to maximize your Instagram success. Some of these points are controversial and fly in the face of what is preached elsewhere.

Just know that we’ve tested these things hundreds of times, specifically with restaurants, and these are the things we’ve personally found are best avoided.

Don't Make Captions Overly Long

Instagram is for short, casual content. Not for writing blog posts.

Short captions perform better, are more fun, and are easier to engage with.

If your caption drags on for more than 3 lines, it’s too long.

Things to avoid for restaurant social media

Don’t Post Graphics. EVER.

Graphics look disgusting, ruin your profile aesthetic, and scream ADVERTISEMENT.

They’ll reduce your average engagement per post, which signals to Instagram that your content is not relevant to people and that they should show it to people less.

Don’t Post Bad Content

If your content does not follow the guidelines above, keep it off your profile.

Instagram for Restaurant

It’s the same problem with posting graphics: they’ll reduce your average engagement and make it much harder for you to reach people organically.

The important thing to remember here is that post frequency is also important. So you have to strike post both high-quality content AND post frequently to succeed on Instagram.


Congratulations. You’ve now got everything it takes to master Instagram for your restaurant.

And you’re in the top 1% who was smart enough and hard-working enough to take advantage of this valuable resource. You truly deserve to grow and defeat your competitors.

The question is: will you take action? What will you implement first?

Take action now and commit by telling me how you’ll apply what you learned in the comments.

Take back control of your margins, customer data, and online reputation.

Our all-in-one-platform helps you take back control of your online presence, drive direct sales, save money on fees, and manage everything in one place. Schedule a demo to see the platform in action and discover why our new restaurant partners increase online sales by an average of 270% in their first three months using

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About the author

Adam Guild

Adam Guild is the CEO of Owner, a restaurant marketing platform that gives restaurant owners online superpowers. See Adam’s best restaurant marketing tips here.

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