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6 Ways Instagram Can Drive Traffic to Your Restaurant

By Caroline Cox | 4 min read

Instagram is a great place to post a photo of your restaurant’s latest cocktail or menu item. But it can also be an effective tool to drive more customers through your doors — if you use it the right way, that is.

By adopting a few mindful ‘gram strategies, you can successfully leverage this social media platform into more followers and restaurant business to boot.

1. Make sure your profile is optimized

First, we’re going to assume your restaurant already has its own Instagram profile. (If not, go ahead and take care of that — it’s super easy to set up — then come back to us!). Ideally, you’ve also snagged your business’s name as your handle. If it’s taken, you can always add an underscore at the beginning or end, or include a few letters from your city at the end like our friends at @tinylousatl, for example.

Next, make sure your profile is set up as a “business” page. This allows you to have special features on your profile such as the category (like “American restaurant”), buttons that let someone instantly call or email you, and a hyperlinked physical address listed out that’ll open up to a mobile map, leading them right to your door.

2. Take advantage of all the platform’s features

OK, so you post well-lit photos that all have a similar color palette or edited look and feel. Maybe you’re even throwing in some relevant, regionally specific hashtags in your caption. That’s great! But there’s still more you can do to maximize your presence and get more IRL (in real life) traffic.

The Instagram Stories feature is a great tool for doing just that. Data shows that video content is great for engagement. You can add fun stickers, get followers to weigh in on a poll about which dessert should be put on the evening’s menu, and even give people a behind-the-scenes tour of your private dining space. You can save these Stories as “Highlights” on your profile, so those who are clicking around your page might check out that private dining video and be more inclined to submit an inquiry or check it out for themselves.

And there’s a bonus for those businesses that gain a sizeable following, too. Once you hit the 10,000 followers mark, you get the coveted “swipe up” option for your stories. This feature allows you to include a hyperlink in your Story posts that people can swipe up to view. Trying to get more customers on a slower night of the week? Consider linking to a drink special or another special offer good for that night only.

3. Keep your page updated

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: consistency is key. You don’t want people to stumble upon your eatery, search for your Instagram (which many diners do these days to get a well-rounded look at your offerings), and be underwhelmed.

Having an updated page doesn’t mean you need to post every day. Create a cadence that’s feasible for you or whichever team member is tasked with managing your restaurant’s social media. That could mean posting a new photo once or twice a week. Take some of the guesswork out of it by having a bank of post-worthy pics, like shots of your new seasonal cocktail lineup, or a nice view of the morning sun hitting one of your booths just right. Mix it up, and don’t overthink it!

4. Highlight your brand advocates

It’s exciting to get a notification that someone has tagged your restaurant on Instagram. But don’t just “like” the picture and keep it movin’. Making your fans feel important and valued can boost your brand reputation and keep people coming back for more.

If someone tags your space and — even better — also includes some kind words in their caption, make sure to comment and thank them for stopping in. Depending on the photo, you can even message them privately to ask if you can repost the photo on your own account and tag them in it for credit. This gives your follower an extra bit of exposure and lets you show off your loyal customers.

5. Host a fun contest

Instagram giveaways are a creative way to increase your organic reach and get more engagement. For restaurants, it can also be a great way to get people in your doors. Consider offering up an appealing prize that requires someone to patronize your business to redeem, like a gift card or free item.

How involved you want your giveaway or contest to be is up to you. You could keep it simple by giving away a gift card to a random lucky winner who follows you and tags two friends in the comments section of your post. Alternatively, you could partner with another local business, such as a hotel or boutique, to offer a bigger prize while getting exposure for both of your brands.

6. Consider investing in ads

Experts agree that running Instagram ads is an effective way to “increase engagement on your posts as well as traffic to your website.” Not only are social media ads relatively affordable for most companies, but you get the benefit of being able to see and track the metrics of how many views and clicks your ads receive.

As far as content, the most important factors are an eye-catching image and a short, to-the-point caption that inspires action. Think: a beautiful photo of your interior or a drink-and-dish setup with a caption about your buzziest new offerings and an invitation for them to click to learn more.


Believe it or not, social media can have a sizable impact on your restaurant’s marketing efforts. Instagram, in particular, lets your brand get creative by showing off your food, drinks, space, team and more. So keep posting, and watch your business grow!

Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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