The A-Z of Instagram Best Practices For Restaurants

Luke Januschka


July 1, 2024
Understanding Instagram best practices for restaurants
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What’s a green flag for you when trying out a new restaurant? For us, it’s an active, engaging Instagram presence.

While the food needs to impress in person, a social media following showcases a venue’s personality from afar. For restaurants, Instagram opens us opportunities to attract and connect with potential patrons before they ever step inside.

Yet, many eateries underutilize or misuse Instagram. Without a defined strategy, posts become just scattered food photos or videos and random updates – not a cohesive brand presence.

Restaurants miss chances to build meaningful relationships and drive traffic.

Targeted marketing via Instagram takes work but pays dividends through increased engagement and customers.

In this blog, we’ll unpack the A-Z of Instagram best practices for restaurants – from IG posts to Reels, Stories, and even IG Live. You’ll learn creative tips to showcase cuisine, tell your eatery’s story, foster community, and analyze results for the intended audience.

How to Use Instagram for Marketing Restaurants: The Expert Take

Below we’ll dish out expert tips and tricks that go beyond the basic “post pretty pictures” advice.

These strategies can be implemented for any eatery business model – independent restaurants, franchises, chains, cloud kitchens, fast food, and fast casual outlets.

So, let’s get started!

Instagram Essentials Checklist: Laying the Groundwork

Checklist for Instagram essentials for restaurants

Let’s start with the basics. You may think that you know how to use Instagram for restaurants, but the effort-to-success ratio can often be low without guidance. 

So, here is a quick Instagram essentials checklist to help you lay the groundwork. 

Quality Profile Picture

 Start with a quality profile picture. 

Your profile picture is the face of your Instagram account, so make it count! Choose a clear, well-cropped image that effectively represents your restaurant’s branding. 

A logo often works best, as it’s easily recognizable and reflects your identity. 

Before hitting “upload,” test it on various devices to ensure it looks as good on a smartphone as it does on a desktop.

Add Highlights With Consistent Covers

Highlights are a fantastic way to keep your best content accessible. 

Organize them into categories like menus, events, behind-the-scenes, promotions, and achievements. Design custom covers that match your restaurant’s branding to maintain a cohesive look. 

Regularly update these highlights to keep them fresh and engaging. 

Relevant Keywords (and #Hashtags)

How to use hashtags on Instagram for restaurants

Your Instagram bio is like the chalkboard sign outside your restaurant, grabbing attention and enticing people to come inside. 

Keep it creative. But make sure to include relevant keywords and hashtags to get discovered.

Same goes for posts. 

Use location-specific keywords to attract local customers and industry-related terms to increase visibility. Popular food hashtags can also help. 

Don’t forget to incorporate a call-to-action to encourage engagement or visits to your restaurant. For example, if you own a pizza joint in NYC, it could be, “Visit us for the best pizza in NYC!  #NYCPizza #FoodieHeaven”.

Switch To Professional Tools

One of the expert Instagram tips for restaurants is to utilize analytics tools such as Instagram Insights to track performance and understand audience behavior. 

For photo enhancements, consider using editing apps like VSCO or Adobe Lightroom. 

And, if you need professional help, connect with Instagram marketing experts and agencies like Restaurant Growth.

Be Active

Instagram is a two-way street. It’s not just about posting pretty pictures. It’s also about engaging with your followers, like a friendly server chatting with regulars. Quickly respond to comments, answer questions, and host polls to create a buzz. 

Engagement is the key here. It builds trust, improves brand awareness, and eventually translates into more table reservations.

6 Best Practices For Restaurant Marketing via Instagram

To make your restaurant Instagram posts as irresistible as your signature dishes, follow these best practices:

1. High-Quality Pictures 

Think of your Instagram as a visual menu. You wouldn’t serve a dish without perfect presentation, so why settle for subpar photos?

Invest in good lighting and thoughtful composition. Natural light can be your best friend for making colors pop.

Showcase a diverse array of dishes, drinks, and your cozy ambiance to keep things fresh and engaging. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and perspectives to create scroll-stopping visuals. 

Remember, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a great one is worth a thousand likes!

2. Best Time To Post on Instagram For Restaurants

Best time to post on Instagram for restaurants

Circling back to engagement, timing is everything on Instagram.

If you are asking yourself “How to promote my restaurant on Instagram?”, maybe the first thing to figure out is when to put out your IG posts.

Use the Instagram Insights tool to identify when your audience is most active.

Weekdays, especially Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., are optimal. Avoid late nights and weekends.

Sometime around 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday is particularly the best time to post on Instagram for restaurants. For weekends, it’s 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings and 7 p.m. on Sunday evenings.

Test different hours to see when your content gets the most interaction.

Don’t let the art of Instagram marketing overwhelm you.

Partner with Restaurant Growth to skyrocket restaurant success on social media.

3. Schedule The Content

Advance scheduling posts can be a smart move. As mentioned above, start by using Instagram Insights to find out when your audience is most active. Then, schedule your posts for those peak times.

Next, create a monthly content calendar that includes all the details for each post. Identify the seasonal celebrations, events, and festivities to produce targeted content that can benefit the business. 

Try content batching to save time and ensure there’s always something ready to go. Tools like Hootsuite or Later can help automate your posts and keep the feed looking cohesive.

Don’t forget to set reminders to engage with your followers in real-time.

4. Follow A Consistent Visual Theme

Is your Instagram feed as cohesive as your restaurant’s decor?

Establish a vibe that aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience through consistent filters, editing styles, colors, or a signature look.

For instance, a cozy cafe might go for warm, earthy tones, while a modern bistro could use sleek, minimalist aesthetics.

5. Pin Your Top Performing Posts

Once you’ve got a stream of fire content, use pinned posts to display your best dishes. Pinning posts can boost visibility and create a good impression. So, put your best foot forward!

Highlight top-performing posts or important announcements, rotating them periodically to showcase variety.

Strategic pinning can drive traffic to promotions, events, or must-know info, keeping your prime content front and center.

6. Collaborate Right

Finally, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Just do it wisely.

For instance, farm-to-table restaurants should seek out influencers passionate about organic, locally sourced ingredients.

So, analyze an influencer’s niche, content style, and audience demographics to ensure a natural fit that resonates with your target diners.

Best Practices For Restaurant Reels

Food is the star of any show on Instagram Reels. And our expert tips help finetune the way the audience views this star to form a perception, like a movie plot.

1. Behind The Scene Reels

One best practice is showcasing behind-the-scenes reels.

Give your followers a glimpse into the magic happening in your kitchen. Show your chefs in action, preparing dishes with skill and creativity, and highlight the unique ambiance and decor that sets your restaurant apart.

This not only connects with your audience but also showcases the quality and effort behind every meal.

2. Trending Reels/Audio

Using trending reels/audio for restaurant Instagram marketing

One reason why Instagram matters for restaurants is its ability to reach a large audience quickly and effectively.
IG reels can boost your visibility by 22%.

So, imagine your reach when you follow trending reels or audio, as Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes reels that use trending audio. 

Participate in trending challenges, use popular songs, and adopt current formats to appeal to a wider audience. Add your own twist to these trends to reflect your restaurant’s personality. 

Engaging with trending hashtags and challenges can significantly increase your visibility. For instance, if there’s a viral dance challenge, have your staff join in while holding your signature dishes. This approach entertains and subtly promotes your menu.

3. Glimpses of Events For Promotional Purposes

Another effective strategy is to create excitement for upcoming events or promotions. Tease your audience through Reels by showing highlights from past events.

This gives your followers a preview of what to expect in your upcoming event.

Want to build anticipation and encourage participation?

Restaurant Growth experts can create high-potential reels that provide sneak peeks into exclusive events or behind-the-scenes preparations.

Explore our Instagram marketing services today!

4. Try A Template

Experimenting with different reel templates can add creativity to your content. A template can help you achieve a cohesive look that reinforces your brand identity. 

Furthermore, templates can save time, and their well-designed look can boost engagement. 

So, try using it for challenges, tutorials, or storytelling.

5. Five-Second Hook

Instagram is a blessing for restaurants. But let’s be real: your audience’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. You’ve got mere seconds to hook them before they scroll on by.

So how do you create that tantalizing first impression? 

Kick things off with something bold, intriguing, or downright irresistible. You could even tease an outrageous new menu item that’ll have folks saying, “They did what now?!”

The key is to captivate your viewers from that very first second. 

Once you’ve reeled them in (pun intended), keep that momentum going with a seamless flow of engaging content. Just be sure to be honest and authentic with your content.

Some strong hooks that work for restaurant biz are:

  • Get 20% off your bill with this hack 
  • You won’t believe this is our secret ingredient
  • Guess who is dining at our place this weekend?

Best Instagram Caption Practices

Captions can make your posts more engaging and relatable. So, what are the best practices for drafting those perfect captions?

1. Capture Attention Quick

Ask a question like, “Ever tried a burger that melts in your mouth?” Share an interesting fact about your restaurant or food. 

Use humor or a playful tone to add personality or kick things off with a quote that resonates with your brand. 

2. Limit The Hashtags

Ever heard the saying, “Less is more”? The same goes for hashtags.

Focus on creating high-quality, engaging content first. Use hashtags sparingly and only when they truly add value. 

Avoid overused or irrelevant tags that can make your post look spammy. Stick to hashtags specific to your restaurant or location.

💡 Pro tip:

Consider placing hashtags in the comments section instead of the caption to keep things clean. This way relevant hashtags can boost discoverability without cluttering your post.

3. Use Keywords Relevant To Your Content

Use the right keywords for Instagram marketing of restaurants

Overstuffed customers may satisfy you, but overstuffed keywords in your content can irritate Instagram’s algorithm. 

So, use keywords that are relevant to your restaurant and food to boost your visibility. It’s one of the best Instagram tips for restaurants, trust us. Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you find the best keywords to use.

Keep it natural and relevant. For example, if you’re known for your vegan dishes, use keywords like “vegan restaurant” or “plant-based meals” to attract the right audience.

4. Embrace SEO

If hashtags are the appetizers, SEO is the main dish. You can boost your Instagram visibility by writing detailed captions providing context and valuable post information.

Use location tags to increase your visibility in local searches. This helps attract nearby customers. It’s one of the most important Instagram best practices for restaurants. 

Also, don’t forget to include a call-to-action (CTA) in your caption to encourage engagement or an immediate action. 

For example, “Loving our new dish? Tag a friend you’d bring here!” These small tweaks can make a big difference in how your posts perform.

Best IG Story Practices For Restaurants 

After Reels, Captions and Posts, it’s now time to skim through the best Instagram story practices. 

1. Be Consistent

It may sound repetitive at this point, but consistency is the key. Look at this article, which clearly shows that 63% of businesses post daily. Something must be working out for them to post this regularly. 

Post at least 3-4 times/week to keep followers engaged and use a consistent visual style, tone, and voice that aligns with the brand voice. 

To build anticipation, you can also create content series or themes (e.g., “Foodie Fridays”).

Triple profit margins and customer engagement with Restaurant Growth’s targeted Instagram marketing.

2. Create Interactive Stories

Why just post a static photo when you can turn it into an engaging experience? 

Imagine kicking things off with a poll or CTA like “Swipe up to visit our website.” Boom, instant interaction! 

Add some background music or trending audio to really make your story pop.

But the real secret is asking questions and seeking feedback from your audience. 

It’s like having a two-way conversation, sparking genuine connections and giving you valuable insights into what your followers really want.

These interactive elements aren’t just fun and games. They’re the key to keeping your tribe hooked and coming back for more.

After all, who doesn’t love feeling heard and being part of the action?

3. Try Instagram Achievement Tools

Speaking of getting your audience involved, have you considered a seven-day story-posting challenge? It’s the perfect way to establish the habit of consistent, engaging content.

You could try out a different interactive element each day. One day a poll; the next, a quiz or question box. 

Not only will this keep things fresh for your followers, but you’ll also get to experiment and see what resonates best with your unique audience.

Can you imagine the engagement you could spark with a full week of interactive stories under your belt? 

4. Daily Specials or Limited-Time Offers

Limited time offer icons for restaurants to use on Instagram

If you have a killer offer, use stories to entice your followers. Post about your daily specials to draw in the crowd.

Nothing gets people through the door faster than a delicious deal they can’t resist.

💡 Pro tip:

Add a countdown sticker to build anticipation for the end of the offer period. This creates a sense of urgency and also keeps your audience engaged and excited. 

Best Practices For Instagram Live

We’re down to the last bit. Instagram Live!

Nothing is as authentic as going live and interacting with your customers. It allows for real-time interaction. 

A live video of whipping up an organic dish can add an element of transparency for the viewers.  

So, if you’re planning to go live on Instagram, here are some of the best practices you should use:

1. Plan Ahead

Before you hit that “Go Live” button, take some time to plan your session. Outline the key points you want to cover and prepare any necessary materials. 

This ensures your live video is structured and engaging. Promote your live session in advance to build anticipation and ensure your audience knows when to tune in.

2. Engage With Audience 

Interaction is the heart of Instagram Live. Greet viewers by name, respond to their comments, and answer their questions in real-time. This makes your audience feel valued and keeps them engaged. 

Use interactive features like polls and Q&A stickers to encourage participation and make your live session more dynamic.

3. Analyze And Improve

After your live session, review the analytics to see how it performed.

Look at metrics like viewer count, engagement rate, and audience retention. Use this data to identify what worked well and what could be improved. 

Continuous analysis and adjustment will help you refine your approach and make each live session better than the last.

Level Up Your IG Game With The Pros

Strategizing best practices for restaurant Instagram marketing

With its highly visual nature, Instagram allows you to showcase your mouthwatering dishes, cozy ambiance, and unique dining experience. 

However, building a strong presence and leveraging Instagram’s full potential can be challenging. That’s where Restaurant Growth comes in.

Our team of Instagram marketing experts can help you create a cohesive brand aesthetic, develop a strategic content plan, and execute targeted ad campaigns to reach your ideal customers. 

From audience targeting and creative execution to budget optimization and conversion tracking, we handle every aspect of your Instagram marketing. 

Guess what that does? Allowing you to focus on what you do best – serving delicious food and keeping customers happy.

Partner with Restaurant Growth. Let us help you fill your tables!


How Do I Make My Restaurant More Instagrammable?

To make your restaurant more Instagrammable, focus on creating visually appealing spaces and dishes. Incorporate unique decor, vibrant colors, and eye-catching presentations to generate buzz for your restaurant’s Instagram marketing.

How Do I Grow My Restaurant Page On Instagram?

To grow your restaurant page on Instagram, consistently post high-quality photos and videos. Engage with your audience, and use relevant hashtags. Implementing other effective restaurant Instagram marketing strategies, such as collaborating with influencers and running Instagram ads for restaurants, can also boost your follower count.

Is Instagram Good For Restaurants?

Yes, Instagram is excellent for restaurants as it allows you to showcase your food, ambiance, and unique dining experiences through visually appealing content. Effective Instagram marketing for restaurants can drive foot traffic, increase brand awareness, and foster a loyal customer base.

How Many Times Should A Restaurant Post On Instagram?

Restaurants should aim to post on Instagram at least 3-5 times per week to maintain engagement and visibility. Mixing different types of content, such as static posts, Reels, and Stories, can keep your feed fresh and appealing. In essence, it enhances your restaurant’s Instagram overall marketing efforts.

How Do I Advertise My Restaurant On Instagram?

To advertise your restaurant on Instagram, create targeted ad campaigns that highlight your best dishes, promotions, and events. Utilize Instagram ads for restaurants to reach a broader audience and drive traffic to your profile and physical location.

How Do I Grow My Restaurant Page On Instagram?

To grow your restaurant page on Instagram, consistently post high-quality content, engage with your audience, and use relevant hashtags. 

Implementing effective restaurant Instagram marketing strategies, such as collaborating with influencers and running Instagram ads for restaurants, can also boost your follower count.

How Do Restaurants Increase Reach On Instagram?

Restaurants can increase their reach on Instagram by using relevant hashtags and geotags. They should also engage with their audience through comments and direct messages. 

Collaborating with influencers and running Instagram ads for restaurants with the help of marketing professionals like Restaurant Growth are also effective strategies.

What Are Some Creative Ideas For Showcasing Food On Instagram? 

Some Instagram ideas for restaurants include using vibrant, high-quality photos, behind-the-scenes videos, and interactive Stories. 

Experiment with different Instagram post ideas for restaurants, such as flat lays, close-ups, and action shots, to keep your content engaging and visually appealing. 

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Luke Januschka
Luke Januschka is a pivotal partner at Restaurant Growth, where he spearheads strategies that have generated over 30 million dollars in tracked sales for our valued restaurant clients.
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