Do It for the Gram: 4 Ways to Make Your Restaurant Instagrammable

a photo of Lenny DeFranco

Lenny DeFranco

5 min read

Jan 30, 2020

Do It for the Gram: 4 Ways to Make Your Restaurant Instagrammable

In the last decade, Instagram has evolved from social media diversion to major marketing channel. Seventy-two percent 72% of Instagram users report having purchased a product they saw on the app, and it’s become established as the leading social channel for luxury brands.

For restaurants, Instagram is a powerful way to show off food, decor, and aesthetic. It’s a medium that targets the experience generation’s fear of missing out, which in turn inspires social media viewers to visit the spots that their friends share on the platform.

Since great Instagram restaurants are made more than they are born, it’s important to understand the ingredients that go into an especially shareable experience. Read on for tips on mastering this key aspect of restaurant marketing, and drive customers to come in for the ‘gram in no time.

Why Instagram is important for restaurant marketing

Broadly speaking, “the experience generation” refers to millennials: people born in the 1980s and 1990s who tend to value experiences more than things. (Three in four millennials would rather spend money on experiences than on physical items.) While payday may have meant a trip to the mall for Gen Xers and boomers, for millennials it’s an opportunity to invest in a special meal, show, or night out.

When millennials enjoy an experience, they’re likely to share it on social media. Instagram has become the channel they’ll head to first. When your customers post a photo of your restaurant’s mouthwatering mac and cheese or pose in front of your funky wallpaper, they’re making their friends wish they were there too.

User-generated Instagram content is essentially word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age. When customers share their experience of your restaurant with friends and followers on Instagram, they’re giving your establishment their seal of approval. People trust their peers’ opinions more than they trust marketing messages from businesses, so a post by a customer is critical social validation. More tags mean more followers and higher engagement, which leads to more reservations and revenue.

This effect is maximized when customers can make reservations directly through your restaurant’s Instagram profile. When customers do the heavy lifting of marketing your restaurant, you can spend more time and money on other endeavors that will grow the business.

Four ways to make your restaurant Instagram-friendly

Here are four ways to maximize your restaurant’s Instagram potential to get more reservations on the books and more customers at your tables.

Optimize your restaurant’s Instagram account for booking

While cleaning up your restaurant’s physical presence is an important part of making it Instagrammable, equally as important is having an active, on-brand Instagram profile.

Having an active profile adds legitimacy. Sharing posts with well-lit photos and clever captions on a regular basis tells customers that your restaurant is real and relevant. Commenting on your customers’ posts and reposting top-notch content engages your online community and strengthens your restaurant’s brand.

Beyond posting quality content regularly, it’s important to optimize your restaurant’s Instagram profile to give followers all the information they need to become customers. This way, when a customer tags your restaurant and their friend sees it, they’ll be able to find out what kind of food you serve, where you’re located, and how they can make a reservation.

Fill out the bio of your Instagram profile (make sure you have an Instagram for Business account) with relevant restaurant information like hours, address, phone number, and a link to your website. Set up your “Reserve” button so that customers can make reservations directly through Instagram.

Restaurant marketing basics: Promote your Instagram presence

After you’ve optimized your Instagram profile, it’s important to let customers know that your restaurant has an Instagram presence. How do you do this?

Make the most of your brick-and-mortar business by putting signage throughout the restaurant. Create table tents, posters, fliers, and even napkins that show customers your Instagram handle and a preferred hashtag. Every part of the experience is a branding opportunity.

Customers will be more likely to tag your restaurant on Instagram, which signals that your place is a destination. The friends, in turn, will want to replicate the experience.

Turn meals and beverages into photo opportunities

Almost one in four Americans have gone to a restaurant because of what the food looked like on social media. Here are some exciting ways to spice up your dishes and beverages to make them irresistible to the Instagram community.

Food porn

Sometimes food is so mouthwatering, so visually arresting that it doesn’t need a makeover to be Insta-worthy. We call these dishes “food porn.” Check out how a simple pasta dish from Scampi in New York City turns into a shareable photo opportunity with the simple lift of a fork.

Garnish it up

Jazz up cocktails by adding colorful garnishes like flowers or exciting extras like dry ice. Bagatelle adds extra flair to their cocktails with fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs.

Whatever you do, make sure to find ways to make your customers want to snap photos of your food without compromising the quality of the dishes!

Turn your space into a photo opportunity

Making your space a photo opportunity is another great way to inspire your customers to post about your restaurant on Instagram. Look to these restaurants for inspiration.

Baby Brasa

This fun Peruvian restaurant in New York City is full of Instagrammable opportunities—from its (actual) model chef to its eye-catching murals.

E.P. & L.P.

Los Angeles’ E.P. & L.P. has a fun neon sign that makes this restaurant Instagram-friendly.

Mr Fogg’s

The seasonal displays inside and outside of London pub chain Mr Fogg’s make the establishments destinations for locals and tourists alike. From Christmas trees to lavish floral arrangements, there’s always something at Mr Fogg’s to inspire an Instagram post.


Miami’s NaiYaRa has its name on a sign behind the bar. This sign does double duty on the restaurant marketing front: it both inspires Instagram posts and tells people where the photo was taken even if the location isn’t tagged in the post.

Wrapping up: Restaurant marketing via Instagram

User-generated content on Instagram is a critical restaurant marketing tactic in the social media era. When you make your restaurant Instagram-friendly, you’ll encourage customers to share their experiences with their peers, which will get you more followers and more customers. Ensuring that something is visually arresting is only one way to get people to want to show off being at your restaurant.

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