How to Create Mouthwatering Social Media Promos for Restaurants

In 2010, a client from the food manufacturing industry asked us to create their new website. The brief was short, under half a page, and the last line read: “Make it mouthwatering. We want people to drool when they land on our homepage.”  We immediately focused on all things visual and cut the text down to a bare minimum.

It made perfect sense in 2010 and it continues to make sense today. It’s 2016 and visual representation of your brand and business (or anything else really) is now a big deal.

It’s no accident that all major social networks and website design are shifting more to images and video. People react better and more frequently to visuals. And with more people shifting to mobile devices with high resolution and less time to read, it’s quite literally all about the image today.

This is a trend that has a lot of businesses who would like to see some results from social media worried. But the huge focus on all things picturesque is a godsend for the food and beverage industry. This is your time to shine on the interwebs.

Know all those plating techniques that went unnoticed or the way a burger glistens in the sunlight? While most other industries have to either search long and hard or pay for good images, the food & beverage industry already has them served up daily, so to speak.

Like plating techniques, the images you share online don’t necessarily have to be high-end or expensive to work for your brand. They just need to be representative of your business and look mouthwatering. Or finger lickin’ good. Take your pick. We eat with our eyes first. Images are the perfect entrée to introduce your patrons to your business and invite them in.

Here’s how to get started with using images to get more social media attention and, more importantly, bring more customers in through your doors.

Step 1: Sourcing photos

Repeat after me – there’s nothing wrong with a well-picked stock photo. The most interesting paradox we’ve been faced with lately is that, as the availability of massive amounts of high-quality stock photos grows, our clients tend to ask us to hire photographers for original pics more often than ever before. While having original professional photos of your restaurant or dishes is a must, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to use those photos in your day-to-day social media activities.

There are three options for getting your hands on great visual materials and we suggest using a mix of all three.

The first, of course, is hiring a professional photographer. While hiring a good one can be costly, this is something that every cafe, bar or restaurant has to invest in for several reasons. And, since you’re already paying, tell the photog that you’d like to use some of these images for your website and social media pages.

Pick a couple of dozen or up to 100 of those photos to use regularly online over the next year or so. These won’t be the pics you’ll be sharing daily on your timeline, but rather the high-end images that you’ll use to adorn your online profiles and pages, and use in your ad campaigns or promotions on social networks. Remember to put your logo or watermark on every image you use online.

We know finding the right photographer can also seem like a hassle, but there are solutions available online for that too. Funny thing is our team is distributed across three continents, so more often than not, we don’t even meet our clients face to face and we don’t live or operate in their state or area. But we find local photographers, designers, event managers, and we get the job done. So, wherever you are in the world, take a minute to mosey on over to Photographer Central to find yourself a local photog whose work you like.

Your second option is sourcing free stock photos online. There are dozens of trusted websites that offer perfectly fine images of food and beverage-related stuff that you should be using for daily social media posting, with a few modifications. Our personal favorite, and among the most popular, is Pixabay. It gets the job done most days.

Do not just google for images or pick one from another website. Make sure the image is either public domain or licensed for commercial use with modification. It is not okay to use images that belong to someone else and using them can seriously injure your brand, reputation, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

The third option is purchasing low-cost professional-grade stock photos. If your business has a fairly generic menu, this option might even be an acceptable substitute to get started until you make time to hire a professional photographer. Shutterstock and iStock are still among the most popular and offer tens of thousands of pics to choose from. Again, make sure to pay attention to the licensing options before you purchase, so you’re sure you can use the images for commercial purposes later.

Step 2: Branding, branding, branding

Brand it or it didn’t happen. This might require a little more time and effort than you were hoping for, but it’s a must. If you skip the branding, you may as well not use image posts at all.

Let’s say you grab some great images, skip the branding and messaging, use them on social media, pay for a little advertising exposure on social networks, and get a bunch of responses and engagement from your fan base. People are commenting, sharing, and reposting. Hundreds of people are going to see it. Awesome. Except you didn’t take the time to put your logo or location on it, so most of those people aren’t going to see or hear about you, much less be incited to connect with your business or walk through your doors.

Pro tip: Put your logo and location on absolutely everything you post online. Try to keep your design clean and uncluttered, but even if it looks a little tacky and crowded, the end (result) justifies the means. People won’t come into your place looking for design services, they’re looking for good food, smooth drinks, and a good time.

Step 3: Scheduling and engagement

You’re a business owner, not a social media community manager. While social media marketing should be a daily activity if you aim to get any real world results, we understand that you can’t spend hours every day monitoring and engaging on social media.

We recommend the Krazy Fish 4-hour-per-week plus 2 x 15-minutes-per-day formula. It’s worked well for everyone who’s decided to put it to good use so far. Set aside 4 hours on a dead day to prepare all of your images and other social media content and take your time. Then use a platform like Buffer or Hootsuite to plan and schedule the prepared content for posting, with your audience’s social media behavior in mind (Buffer, Hootsuite and similar platforms can also help you figure out which times are best).

Once you’re all scheduled and set, check back to your Facebook page and Twitter or Instagram feeds twice a day to answer comments, questions, and messages. Use any reason to interact with users there and try to incite conversation by posing questions and inviting people to participate.

If you want to get really serious about using social media to bring in more customers, you’ll have to set aside a full day for all of this and spring a little cash on social media ads. In terms of ads, the simplest solution, if you have good content, is to boost select content and include a call to action. Starting with as little as $20 to properly target and boost a Facebook post once or twice a week should be enough.

If you’re a beginner, the content you choose to boost should be clear, engaging, and promote either an event at your venue or an item on your menu. Asking questions and inviting people to sign up for something or make reservations also raises the chances of getting a response, otherwise known as audience engagement. Hospitality industry folks are good at this sort of thing.

Keep in mind that the people on the other end of your social media page are, or should be, the same ones who come into your establishment. Use the same tone and manner you would use if they walked through your door. Do exactly what you would do in person. Anyone who’s ever worked a day in a restaurant knows what we’re talking about.

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