How Restaurants Are Using Social Media Effectively

When it comes to embracing the potential of social media marketing, no other industry has quite captured it like the restaurant industry. Businesses of all sectors can learn a lot from looking at how restaurants are using social media effectively.

Cafes and restaurants have leveraged each nugget of potential that social media offers, landing them firmly in that sweet spot where consumers not only expect their presence in social media feeds, but welcome it.

So, how exactly are restaurants playing this social media marketing game so well? What are they doing to be so embraced by social media? And, most importantly, how can you do it too?


Focusing Efforts and Energy on Just A Few Platforms

You won’t find many restaurants with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, YouTube and Vine accounts. Even a full-time social media manager would struggle to keep up with all of those.

Effectively using social media means quality over quantity. While “The Big 3” – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – might be the most common platforms to maintain, you might decide that your restaurant or business would benefit more from a different platform.

Think about your branding and your audience. A beautifully curated collection of recipes from your eatery on Pinterest or regular videos of your cafe on YouTube might be just as successful for your business as a regular Twitter feed. As long as your content is enjoyed and your presence there seems “meant to be”, you’re doing it right.

Using Facebook to Provide Up-to-Date Information

Facebook is the non-negotiable platform. Restaurants cleverly use Facebook as their go-to online space for up-to-the-minute information. Whilst it’s not advisable for most businesses, many smaller eateries only maintain a Facebook page in lieu of a website.

This is because Facebook is not only easier to update than a website, but it’s where customers turn to for very current information.

Is the cafe open today? What time do they shut? Do they have specials on? Do they have their own high chairs?

Potential customers will check the Facebook page for this information. Restaurants using Facebook to its full potential will have all of this information readily available on their page. Having easily accessed information helps potential customers to make their decision to actually walk through your doors.

Embracing User Generated Content and Social Proof

One of the reasons social media is such a powerful marketing tool is its ability to foster social proof. Whether that be through avenues as formal as reviews or shares or likes, or as subtle as customers tagging a business in a photo or posting a picture of a product, it sends the message “I support this brand.”

Restaurants and cafes get a huge head start in this game, as people just love posting pictures of their creamy latte, delicious avocado smash, or beautifully presented fine-dining meal. But the businesses who are truly using social media effectively take this one step further.

They encourage customers to tag their restaurant in the picture, or to include a specific hashtag or ask to repost the image to their own social media page. This pushes the social-proofing User Generated Content to exponentially greater audiences.


Fostering Community

In another example of quality over quantity, restaurants which use social media effectively don’t aim for the greatest number of followers, they aim for the most engaged followers.

Putting the “social” in social media by encouraging interaction with your connections is important for maximizing the impact of social media marketing efforts. Likes, comments, shares, and re-tweets all make for far greater exposure, social proof, and brand recognition than a simple one-off click of the “follow” button.

Fostering community among your followers and engaging with them also develops an affinity with your brand and your business. People like to feel involved, like to be part of something and like to align themselves with brands or companies. Restaurants which create an online community with their followers are using social media to encourage loyalty among their customer base.

Pictures of food, beverages, and people enjoying a meal out are ubiquitous on social media. Restaurants have really leveraged the full marketing potential of these platforms to harness social proof, encourage loyalty, provide information, and target new audiences. By studying how restaurants use social media effectively we can all learn a thing or two…

Restaurant Promotions: 3 of the Best Ever and 3 of the Worst Ever

You have to be creative to get ahead in the restaurant game. It’s one of the most competitive industries in the world, and to stand out from the crowd can be the ultimate challenge. Promotions provide a great way to do just that, giving your restaurant a unique selling point that gets customers’ heads turning.

But standing out from the crowd can be a double edged sword. Here are six restaurants who definitely managed to do just that, although some were for better, and some were for worse.

The Best

1) Taking the Subway to Slimtown

In the early 2000s, Subway experienced the sort of explosion that the restaurant industry had never seen before – a boom so big that it ended up overtaking McDonald’s in terms of pure restaurant numbers, something that many would have assumed was impossible just a few years earlier.

It did this on the back of a campaign featuring everyman Jared Fogle (who has subsequently fallen into infamy) which followed a weight loss journey inspired by Subway sandwiches. The public was captivated, and the tills continue to ring on the back of the campaign to this day.

2) Talk to the Kids

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc understood what people wanted. The world’s largest restaurant chain was built on the back of his marketing nous, which was best summed up by his creation of kids’ characters to get the little ‘uns interested in the chain.

Ronald McDonald and friends have since become part of the fabric of western society, endearing the chain to generation after generation.

3) Trial by Fire

Many will remember the ghost pepper challenge making a splash on social media a few years back – a brave soul would try to eat and keep down the hottest chilli known to man, inevitably with hilarious results. New Zealand’s Hell Pizza decided to hitch onto the viral sensation, offering what they called Friendship’s Trial by Fire.

A large pizza would be made, with one of the eight slices being sprinkled with ghost peppers. Friends and family would roll the dice and pray that they wouldn’t be the unlucky one that ended up with lava mouth. The campaign’s result? $2.3 million in extra sales, an ROI of 400% and a 17.5% increase in new customers.

The Worst

1) A campaign to be the worst reviewed on Yelp

David Cerretini is the owner and manager of Botto Bistro in San Francisco. If you look up Botto Bistro on Yelp you’ll notice something strange – there are a slew of hilariously written one-star reviews. And that’s exactly what Cerretini wants.

After having a spat with the online review giant, Cerretini decided the best way to vent his anger would be to try and become the worst reviewed restaurant on Yelp. From not offering ice with drinks to charging $4 for a smell of marinara sauce, it appears that the campaign is working. The end goal? Who the hell knows?

2) Infinite crab

Back in 2003 the brains trust at US seafood chain Red Lobster came up with a stunning marketing campaign. “Why don’t we offer our customers all-you-can-eat crab?” they said, to a chorus of cheers and high-fives.

The problem:

  • Eating too much crab causes most people to vomit.
  • Eating fast-food-chain-quality crab causes most people to vomit even sooner.
  • In 2003 crab leg prices were at an all-time high.

Unless you were Red Lobster’s resident janitor, this last point was probably the most important, because it meant that if any customer ate more than six crab legs the restaurant would be losing money. And how many did the average customer eat during the promotion? 24.

The restaurant ran at a fairly severe loss for a few weeks before finally shutting the promotion down.

3) The McD.L.T.

While deconstructed cuisine has become rather big over the last few years, McDonald’s can lay claim to perhaps the first – and worst – example.

CONCEPT: Create a double Styrofoam container, and put the hot hamburger ingredients on one side, the cold hamburger ingredients in the other, and let the customer make the burger themselves and enjoy the appropriate temperature levels throughout.

Over and above getting the customer to construct their own burger, McDonald’s saw a huge backlash from environmentalists who were already up in arms about their single Styrofoam container, let alone one that was double the size. The promotion ended in 1990 after a few short and unsuccessful years.

Why Internet Marketing Is Vital for the Success of Your Coffee Shop

There’s a temptation for smaller businesses to think that digital marketing isn’t worth the effort; that it’s best left to the big end of town with their big marketing budgets or that you need a specific skill set to do it effectively and efficiently.

This line of thought is rife within the café sector. Starbucks aside, the classic independent coffee shop is a small, cute and extremely local business. The bulk of new customers are presumed to be either random passers-by sitting down on a whim or fresh faces brought in by personal recommendation, and if the café is good at what they do those newbies will soon turn to diehard fans. For many café owners, digital marketing strategy doesn’t really seem to fit with their traditional avenues to growth.

How wrong they are.

Internet marketing is vital to the success of your coffee shop, and the reasons why are many and varied.

It’s quantifiable and measurable

Why is it that most cafés won’t think twice about getting 1,000 flyers printed, but baulk at the thought of spending a similar amount on marketing themselves on the internet? In truth, digital is the evolution of marketing – an upgrade from the traditional methods of radio, television and print.

Unlike traditional, internet marketing is quantifiable and measurable. You get hard numbers on how many people have seen your advertisement, and how many people have engaged with it. If you use social media you may also gain access to a wealth of demographic information on your advertising audiences such as age, location and common interests.

It future-proofs your café

Whether you like it or not, the world is going digital. Gone are the days when a person would pick up the phone book to find the business they’re looking for. These days everyone (quite rightly) jumps online and Googles it instead. By ignoring the internet you’re also ignoring every customer within your vicinity who is currently searching on their mobile for somewhere to have a nice coffee.

It saves you a bundle

You’ve got a limited budget, and you need to stretch those dollars as far as they can possibly go when it comes to marketing. Never fear, the internet is here to help.

When compared to more traditional marketing methods, internet marketing is an incredible value. That’s because the likes of email marketing and social media marketing will run endlessly, rather than in a single issue of a newspaper or for two weeks on radio. If correctly set up, this unending run will also have no tangible upkeep cost!

It gets you in the palms of hands

More than going digital, the world is going mobile. The fact that you can search for amazing coffee from wherever you are standing should be a boon for café owners, but it’s one that a surprising amount choose to ignore.

Ensuring your café is on the major review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor is non-negotiable, and completing a Google profile of your business will also make a major difference, allowing those new to your area to track you down on a map.

It prevents you from being overtaken

Think that you might worry about this internet marketing thing later? That’s a shame because your major competitor has just begun to take it very seriously. By putting off the marketing inevitable, you’re simply allowing yourself to fall behind the other cafés and coffee shops in the area. Getting a head start in the digital marketing race will allow you to capture the market before the shop next door has the chance.

It keeps you hungry for growth

You should always be aiming to grow your café or coffee shop, but most business owners will admit to falling into some form of comfort zone where they’re largely happy with their lot, which leads to stagnation and possibly even the death of your business. One way to avoid this rut is to involve yourself in digital marketing, particularly social media marketing.

Watching your follower count rise or your reach expand serves to keep you hungry for growth. Competing with yourself on offering up content that gets a record amount of likes can be a challenge that every café owner, or indeed every internet user, can get around.

Your coffee shop might be small, cute and extremely local, but that doesn’t mean the big ol’ World Wide Web should be ignored. There’s a wealth of digital opportunity just sitting there, and it’s up to you to grab it.

7 of the Best Creative Restaurant Promotion Ideas

Trying to think up some creative restaurant promotion ideas for your business? Want to “wow” the world with something different to the run of the mill methods?

Here are seven of the best out-of-the-box marketing tactics to inspire you.


Help punters pay their parking tickets

Victoria Station and Vic’s Boathouse in Salem, Massachusetts, runs Parking Violation Night every Monday through Wednesday. Patrons bring in their parking fines, the restaurant provides postage and mails it, as well as giving a free appetiser “to ease the pain!”

Turn your delivery vehicles into marketing machines

Lots of delivery vehicles have branding and marketing splashed all over them, but get a bit creative with it and it could become a viral sensation.

Domino’s in The Netherlands hit the ball out of the park with their Safe and Sound electric scooters, which played a loop of fake “engine” noises created by a man saying “Domino’s, Domino’s, Domino’s, Domino’s, PIZZA!” in the rhythm of an engine. Very funny stuff!

Let social media followers in on a password for special offers

We’ve discussed before how you need to throw in special treats as incentives for people following your social media pages. It doesn’t need to be boring, as Run Amuk Hotdogs Unleashed in Fremantle, Australia has shown.

Their regular special offers on their Facebook page create a bit of fun, with discounts and freebies for people who come in and say/do what’s asked for in the Facebook call-out. Prime example: “free fries on Friday for anyone who says ‘I like what you’ve done with your hair’ to the guy at the register.”

Go above and beyond to surprise a customer

“Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. J”, tweeted the unsuspecting Peter Shankman.

When a tux-wearing waiter from Morton’s Steakhouse did exactly that, the internet went nuts over it. The exposure and kudos Morton’s Steakhouse received for that stunt way outweighed the effort and expense they put in.

Create a challenge for customers to get involved in

Hell’s Pizza in New Zealand are no strangers to controversial marketing campaigns, but their Pizza Roulette challenge took the country by storm.

Participants in the challenge received a pizza, which had one of the world’s hottest chilli sauces added to just one slice. The catch was that no one knew which slice was the fiery one. The outrageous nature of the challenge (with the tagline “It doesn’t cost, but someone pays”) got everyone talking, even if not everyone was brave enough to participate.


Leverage a popular event

It’s always fun to run a promotion alongside a big holiday – pumpkin spiced lattes at Halloween, free glasses of champagne at Valentine’s Day… It’s also fun if you can foster a sense of community or camaraderie along with it. Offer a special deal or discount depending on your local sporting team’s success – whether that’s if they win, where they’re ranked against other teams, or how many points they score.

Just don’t take it as far as McDonald’s in the 1984 Olympics, who offered a free Big Mac, Coke, or fries for every gold, silver, and bronze medal won by the USA. They forgot to factor in the fact that the USSR didn’t participate, meaning the USA won 83 gold medals (as opposed to 34 at the last Olympics) and McDonald’s shelled out far more free meals than they bargained for.

Create some intrigue with a promotion that people have to work for

We’re used to instant gratification these days. We can have what we want, when we want it. New pizza joint Hidden in the Australian city of Melbourne made a splash by going against this.

They offered free pizza to anyone who found the restaurant (which didn’t have the usual online presence – its location was secret). This very clever launch went viral – people were intrigued and they were rewarded not only with free pizza but with bragging rights. And that bragging online converted into very powerful promotion for Hidden.

Growing and Managing Your Restaurant’s Reputation Through Online Marketing

Reputation is everything in the restaurant game. A good standing will have patrons rolling through the door, drawn in by tantalising whispers and word-of-mouth. But such repute doesn’t just happen; it can take years for any restaurateur to build a good reputation and takes but a moment for it to be destroyed.

You’re in control of your restaurant’s rep, although it takes a little effort to cultivate it. Thankfully this digital world of ours has made the process of growing and managing your restaurant’s status easier than ever.

Growing Your Restaurant’s Rep

Get in front of people’s faces

To have a reputation, be it bad or good, you sort of need people to know that you exist. It’s hard to have an opinion on something when you don’t know about that something. So the first step to growing your restaurant’s reputation is gaining that all important visibility.

Invest serious time and effort into your restaurant’s website. If you Google your restaurant’s name and your site doesn’t come up on the first page of results, you’ve got work to do. Employ an SEO expert to get your site as high up the Google rankings as possible, and get active on social media – sign up to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at the very minimum.

Ask for feedback

Building your restaurant’s reputation rests heavily on creating a buzz; on getting people to talk about your establishment, and hopefully in glowing terms. So why not flat out ask people to publish their opinions?

If a customer has had a great night, there’s nothing pushy about your service staff saying something like “if you enjoyed yourself feel welcome to review us on Yelp – it really helps!” You can also create business cards to hand the customer with the cheque, and strategically place review site stickers around your premises.

Display reviews on your social feeds and in your restaurant

Those 5-star reviews needn’t stay as zeros and ones on the World Wide Web – why not bring them into the real world? Scrawling super positive messages from previous customers can firm your reputation as a dining hotspot and encourage others to offer up their two cents too. If you’re brave, displaying unreasonably bad reviews – this fried chicken store doesn’t even serve lobster – can serve to highlight the ridiculousness of some reviews, and will show that you’re willing to laugh at yourself.

Managing Your Restaurant’s Rep

Respond to reviews

All reviews, be they one, five or 39 stars, deserve a response. Restaurateurs who respond to those who have taken the time to review an establishment are showing that they are concerned with their performance; that they actively search out feedback and (hopefully) take it on board. If someone has commented on how much they enjoyed their night, throw them a ‘thanks so much for coming – we hope to see you again soon!’

Automate the reputation monitoring process

Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and Google are the major review sites worthy of your attention. Your establishment’s profile on these sites should be checked out of habit, not on a whim. Set aside time weekly, perhaps every Monday morning, to check reviews and respond to them. A tool such as Grade Us can serve to make this process far easier.

Be careful when responding to negativity

Just as much effort – perhaps even more – should be put in when responding to negative reviews compared to positive. It’s vital that you thank the reviewer for their feedback, address the concerns raised in the review, and offer either good reasons for what occurred or show that you are taking steps to improve yourself.

Remain calm – leave the CAPS LOCK and the ¡¡¡over-exclamation!!! at the door.

Flag reviews which are patently false

It’s impossible to please everybody in the hospitality game. There’ll always be someone who finds a way to be appalled, whether that be with the food, the service or the atmosphere and takes to the keyboard to vent their frustrations. If you feel as though a negative review has misrepresented the facts you’ll be relieved to learn that most review sites have avenues of appeal. Yelp, for example, allows you to flag false reviews and send them to a Yelp employee for evaluation.

Despite growing and managing your restaurant’s reputation never have been easier, it’s surprising how few restaurateurs do it properly. By taking your digital rep seriously, you’ll soon find yourself getting ahead of quite a few competitors.

And all it’ll cost you nothing more than a few strokes of the keys.

Prime Examples of Great Social Media Content for Cafes

It’s almost like social media was made for cafes. Other businesses have to find a way to slot in with the platforms to convince the users that they should be there, whereas cafes’ photos of creamy lattes and tasty avocado smash are right at home on Instagram and Facebook.

Curating content for social media for cafes should be easy, right? You can’t really go wrong…

Well, yes and no. It is hard for a cafe to go drastically wrong with their social media posting activity, but to get it right and to really hit the mark is a whole different kettle of fish.

Is it time to take your cafe’s content from good to great? Let’s get some inspiration from these examples of great social media content for cafes.


Photos of Food

Of course, the glaringly obvious one. Cafes are one of the very few businesses whose blatant advertising of their product actually works as social content. People love to see what you’re offering, especially if they’re potential customers deciding whether to go to your cafe or not.

With this in mind, put a little thought into the photos of your food. Style it a bit. Choose your best items. Take the picture in a way that also shows off your cafe, or has a vibe that matches the branding of your cafe.

Check out Gjusta cafe/bakery in Venice, California, who do it oh so well.

Behind the scenes pictures

Social media is a great place to “humanize” your business. Include photos of behind the scenes, in your kitchen, or little tidbits of information to share with your patrons. It builds a sense of community and encourages customers to feel aligned with your brand and your business.

Foodies Deli Cafe in Sydney does a great job of this on their Facebook page, with a mix of posts of the team at work, menu items, and information. Check out the number of likes on this feel-good post about ringing the bell to pay the chef a compliment!

Photos of Staff

This ties in with behind the scenes posts. Photos of staff happily doing their job give your cafe a human touch. This is especially helpful as today’s customers are increasingly socially conscious and like to support ethical businesses. Showing that your employees are happy goes a long way in the minds of customers.

The CoffeeWorks Project cafe in London uses this tactic on their Instagram account, which itself is a masterclass in excellent social media content for cafes.

Things that are Uber-Shareable

Photos of food, your cafe, and employees are great for attracting likes, but if you’re aiming for shares you may need to think beyond the walls of your cafe.

The three main reasons that people share social media content are:

  • Because it’s interesting
  • Because it’ll be helpful for the recipients
  • Because it’s funny

Keep this in mind when curating content to post on social media.


Halo Cafe in Celbridge is a shining example of great social media content for cafes which is funny. Their hilarious chalkboard signs aren’t only effective in real life, they’re perfect social media fodder.

Not only do their own pictures of the signs get shared on social media, but customers IRL take photos of the signs and upload them to their own account. It’s a pure and simple example of User Generated Content that works so well.

Examples of “useful” content are how-to, life-hack, and top-ten list articles. Websites like I Love Coffee do great posts which you can share on your Facebook page to pique the interest of your followers.

Memes with interesting facts or funny coffee-related jokes are also great content for cafes’ social media accounts. They’re easy to find on the internet or you can make your own. Just make sure you choose one that aligns with your brand and will have your customers saying, “Haha! That’s so me!” rather than “that’s weird and offensive and I didn’t expect that of that cafe.”

Social media is made for cafes. The popularity of #foodporn shows that people love a good snap of a brunch and coffee on their Instagram feeds. Keeping in mind these examples of great social media content for cafes and taking inspiration from the masters will put you in their league in no time.

6 of the Freshest Ideas for Marketing Your Bar

Unless you’ve somehow found yourself holding a monopoly in a one bar town, as a bar owner you’ll face stiff and constant competition. In order to truly succeed you’ll need to be creative. You’ll need to use all of your marketing wiles to attract new customers and to keep your old ones. But truly good ideas can be hard to come by.

Fear not – while coming up with a unique bar promotion might be a difficult task, inspiration can be taken from other bars who have done fresh work in the past. Here are just six such ideas that you can make your very own.

1) Drown Your Parking Sorrows

Parking tickets are the bane of many a suburbanite’s existence. A night at the bar, however, can be one of the most fun aspects of city living. So why not take the sting out of one by using the other? A clever New York bar has offered its patrons a free drink if they show proof of an unpaid parking ticket from the last two weeks. Drowning your sorrows has never been cheaper.

2) Give Your Guests a Bit of Flair

Every man wants to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Every woman wants Tom Cruise in Cocktail. There’s a romanticism and desirability surrounding flair bartending that is hard to quantify. Thankfully you don’t have to quantify it – you just have to capitalise on it.

If you’ve got a talented bartender, set aside a night for them to give a masterclass on making a specific cocktail. All your patrons need to do is pay for the drink, and they get the lesson for free!

3) Host a Tournament

An organised tournament, be it weekly or monthly, is a great way to get your bar to become a destination for hordes of people, all looking to prove themselves (with the help of some nerve-calming drinks). Offer real prizes – bar credit or drinks are always a safe bet – and they will come.

Beer pong. Darts. Pool. Foosball. The list goes on and endlessly on. Choose a bar sport that attracts your ideal clientele – beer pong will quite obviously attract a different set to darts. Do you want the slow beer drinkers or the Jaeger bomb shooters? The choice is yours.

4) Flip a Coin

Simplicity is sometimes key. How about this for a no-brainer – your doorman/doorwoman has a coin in their hand. Someone shows a bit of interest in your bar. Your door person gives them an offer they can’t refuse: if they pick the coin flip correctly, their first drink is free. If they pick incorrectly, they pay full price. You’ll be shocked at how effective this strategy can be.

5) Give Sports Fans a Reason to Choose Your Bar

The big game is coming up. There are going to be innumerable revellers looking for good atmosphere and plentiful drinks to enjoy the event, and you’re looking for a slice of that pie.

One of the most effective options is to place a fun little bet with your customers. If the home team wins by a certain margin, you’re willing to give them an hour of free beers (or while stocks last). The key to this promotion is to make the bet unlikely, yet have it seem achievable. But don’t stress – if your bar happens to lose, you’ll more than likely make up the giveaways through the weight of drinks sold afterwards.

6) Have Your Finger on the Local Musical Pulse

Bars are built for live music. One of the ways you can prove your bar is the place to be seen is to become the go-to place for local music release parties. This marketing strategy relies on you having an active interest in the local music scene, but if you can identify up-and-coming musicians in your local area you can then invite them to release their new track at your establishment. This will attract not only their fans but also those who simply like some strumming in the background.

All of these ideas will be made more effective with the help of digital marketing, so having a strong social presence is a must. But over and above that, you simply need to be brave enough to have a go.

The hospitality industry is a competitive one. Fresh ideas are one of the best ways to rise above the bar noise.