Welcome back to The Secret Recipe by Otter: a hub for inspiration, education & tips to help your restaurant succeed in delivery in 2022. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been releasing expert advice on topics you need to master to skyrocket your sales in the new year. Check out our posts on menu optimization, sustainability, and finance on the Otter blog. For the fourth and final installment of the series, we’ll be digging into a topic that has become increasingly important over time: restaurant branding and social media.
Your restaurant’s social media presence matters now more than ever. Why? Because your potential customers are using social media not just to look & like, but also to decide where they eat and where they don’t — in fact, 45% of diners have tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post, and 88% of people say that online comments influence their purchase decisions. But people aren’t only choosing where they eat based on social media; they’re also deciding where they won’t eat, with 30% of millennial diners actively avoiding restaurants with a weak Instagram page. In essence, having a strong social media presence plays a part in whether a potential customer will choose your restaurant. But don’t worry, it’s more simple than you might think.
We know, we know – you’re running a busy restaurant, and you would’ve chosen a career in marketing if you wanted to dedicate a chunk of your time to branding and design, but with these 5 simple tips, making your social media channels unique and effective can be simple… and dare we even say… fun? Eh, we might be a little biased on that one… Regardless, let’s dig in.
Valentina Story is a Venezuelan food consultant and creative director with over fifteen years of experience in the creative business of the restaurant industry. After achieving many culinary experiences worldwide, Valentina founded a corporate design boutique where she creates innovative business concepts related to food. Valentina has also completed a master’s degree in food criticism and has worked with award-winning chefs, entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs. Valentina guides her clients to start or renew their projects from concept development, brand design, interior design, packaging to their marketing strategy. She is now the creative director of various fine dining restaurants in Washington, D.C. To learn more about Valentina, click here.
If you’ve got a couple extra minutes to spare, dig into Valentina’s top 5 tips to make your restaurant’s social media channels unique and memorable
In the food business, branding matters. Learn Valentina Story’s top 5 tips on how to make your restaurant’s Instagram more effective, aesthetically pleasing, and differentiated.
1. Develop (and stick to!) a look & feel that reflects your food philosophy
Different cuisine types, geolocations, and target audiences’ call for different types of content. If you’re a trendy pizza place in a college town, the look and feel of your photos might lean into trending colors, textures, and styles. If you’re a high-end steak restaurant in a suburban midwest locale, your look and feel may be void of bright colors, timeless, and straightforward. Whether you choose timeless or trendy, bright or subdued, ensuring that your look & feel is in line with your food philosophy will help you keep your social presence genuine and unique.
2. Create a consistent color palette - useful for promos, stories, highlights, and more advantages.
Think of your color palette as a set of useful, loose guidelines that help you make decisions about photography, promotional social posts, stories, and more. The team at Otter uses a relatively consistent color palette which we based off of our logo and website, but you can use your logo, top-selling menu item, or current feed as the inspiration for your palette (through tools that pull out your key colors based on what you’ve posted in the past). Regardless of where you pull the inspiration from, just be sure that your color palette of choice is based on something true to your restaurant that differentiates you from the competition. When it comes to using a consistent color palette, we think Otter client Pizzaclik takes the cake, or well, pie. Adorned in bright yellow, pop-centric pink, black & white, this palette and feed is different, memorable, and unique to Pizzaclik. But if you’re not sure you can commit to something as standardized, consider creating “mini palettes” that you stick to throughout different times of the year. Take Otter client, Black Rock Coffee Bar, for example. They create and post in different color palettes based on the season – for fall: oranges, tans, and navy, for winter: dark greens, bright reds, and black & white.
3. Always use high-quality imagery; photos are the most essential part of restaurant marketing
The fact that “food” is one of the hottest topics on social media, with more than 371 MILLION posts under the hashtag #food, can either be an advantage or a disadvantage to restaurants like yours. Why? Because your food-centric content is competing with the food-centric range of professional photographers, paid influencers, “foodie” accounts, and more. Image quality is one surefire way to distinguish you from the competition. There are many ways to achieve high-quality food imagery—from professional photoshoots to freelance photographers—but if you’re more of the DIY type, you can check out this article we wrote that includes 5 simple ways you can shoot excellent food photography yourself. No expensive camera or light reflecting silver thing required!
4. Keep it real! Showcase people cooking, prepping & the faces behind your business
You’re already well aware that your people are one of your restaurant’s most important assets. They work hard to keep your customers happy, all while maintaining a smile. Using your social media as a look behind the curtain or counter is one way to ensure you come across as authentic, human, and relatable. Consider showcasing how your best-selling menu item is made & prepared in the kitchen, what the lunch rush really looks like in your back of house, or how grateful you are to have a committed team who makes it all possible. When creating content around your staff, having a “prompt” or “theme” can keep your content fresh and inspired. For example, what if you asked each one of your chefs what their favorite item on the menu is, or what modifiers make one of their favorite dishes even better? What if you asked your bartender what cocktail tastes best during which season? Keeping it real is a breath of fresh air that your potential customers appreciate in today’s filtered and edited world.
5. Different types of content - videos, photos, keep it dynamic and interesting
Plenty of elements of your restaurant’s social media call for consistency: from color palettes to image quality. But one area where mixing it up is mandatory is the type of media you upload to your social channels. To keep your audience engaged, experiment with multiple types of content from videos to still imagery to reels, stories, gifs, and more: this is the place to try new and different things. Since we know that 8 out of 10 people watch cooking shows, why not create some behind-the-scenes cooking videos of your own? Got a new menu item launching? Why not shoot a still photo showing the item itself surrounded by some of the key ingredients within it? Got a great review on Yelp that you can’t stop thinking about? Consider turning it into a piece of graphic content with social media tools like Canva! Mixing it up ensures that your audience will continue to engage with your content – which helps keep your restaurant in the forefront of their mind (hopefully for every time they want to order food!)
From consistent, high-quality photos to a breakthrough color palette, to behind-the-counter content in the form of images, videos, gifs, and more, we hope these 5 tips to make your restaurant’s social presence unique & effective have inspired you to revamp your channels. Once you get into the groove of creating content that follows these guidelines, consider utilizing a social calendar so you and your team can prepare in advance. Make sure you’re posting a couple times a week at least, so you don’t see a drop in engagement or followers. We know it might sound a little insignificant in the grand scheme of, well, the one thousand other things you’re doing to keep your restaurant running, but nailing your social strategy can result in more engagement, more orders, more positive reviews and more revenue.