Marketers like to debate whether a certain platform or technique is ‘dead’.
Being the most widely used social media platform in the world, Facebook has certainly been featured in such discussions.
Just because so many people use the network, though, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll swarm your restaurant’s Facebook page. On the contrary, with so much competition to deal with, it might even be harder to cut through the noise.
Like tending a garden, a restaurant needs to cultivate its social media presence with patience, dedication, and consistency.
Fortunately for restaurants, diners seem to be quite active online. In fact, a study found that restaurants are indeed the most searched industry on mobile devices.
The good news, then, is that your target market is likely active online. Now you just need to execute and implement your restaurant Facebook marketing plan well – together, of course, with your other online marketing strategies.
And you’ll probably want to try a variety of social media posts to see what sticks with your audience, and not just simple text or images without context.
We’ve put together a list to help you start brainstorming.
1. Try live streaming
One Valentine’s Day, Dunkin Donuts held a live stream showing viewers their test kitchen.
The video attracted 48,000 views, which is certainly not bad, given that this was their first ever Facebook live stream.
It also helped that they included a teaser in the video description.
The big announcement turned out to be a donut-themed wedding cake, plus a contest for engaged couples to win a $10,000 prize.
2. Combine graphics and images
Hong Kong’s Cafe de Coral likes to add graphical elements to images of their food.
The end result is usually like a scene from a cartoon – especially when they add hints of a story, like a couple going on a date.
If you think a creative Facebook marketing strategy like this will resonate with your target market, you might want to consider adding a graphic designer to the team.
It’s a good idea to make your graphic design coherent with your restaurant branding, too. That means keeping the look and style consistent not just across different social media platforms, but also on your website, packaging, and menu design.
But even if you decide not to get a graphic designer yet, you should still be able to make decent graphics yourself using easy-to-use software with design templates, like Canva or Piktochart. No excuses to not try!
3. Be helpful
Mamma Mia, an international Italian restaurant chain, knows that diners like their coffee in different ways – possibly because customers tend to ask wait staff to explain coffee combinations (I know I do).
So they shared these graphics to explain their coffees once and for all:
When diners know the difference between a macchiato and a piccolo, they know what to expect from their drink. And anyway, who doesn’t love a good coffee guide?
4. Be woke
The expression of being “woke” evolved from an African American expression to a slang term for being socially aware.
How does this apply to restaurants? Well, restaurants can be woke by knowing about the issues affecting their community, as well as their industry.
For World Water Day, the Arlington Club shared a video by Whole World Water organization, together with a hashtag and website link. They encouraged their audience to support the vision for everyone in the world to have access to clean water by 2030.
5. Tap on pop culture
In June, Din Tai Fung helped promote the concert of Liu Jia Chang, a Taiwanese singer, by holding a contest for tickets.
This collaboration makes sense given Liu’s status as a classic icon in Mandopop (or Mandarin popular music) and Din Tai Fung’s identity as a Chinese restaurant.
6. Feature user-generated content
These days, it’s common practice for diners to take photos and videos of their restaurant experiences and post these online.
Sometimes, they might even tag your official social media pages!
If you scan through users’ photos, chances are you’ll find plenty worthy of sharing. The reasons may vary, such a high quality photo or a video that’s simply fun.
International Japanese curry chain CoCo Ichibanya makes it a habit to feature photos taken by their customers. Of course, they give credit where it is due.
Sharing fans’ content helps you build a sense of community around your page by showing the experiences of other customers. Your show of appreciation will also encourage them to keep on posting.
7. Engage your fans in the comments
With so many social media disasters threatening to turn an organization upside down, it can be scary to engage with people who comment on your Facebook posts.
But don’t be afraid to enjoy some fun banter with your followers!
See how Red Lobster engages with raving fans as part of their restaurant Facebook marketing strategy:
But when the comments are negative, be sure to respond helpfully, too:
8. Hold a contest
A contest encourages your Facebook followers to engage with your page more than they might usually. At the same time, it rewards loyal fans, and encourages new and repeat customers.
The Singapore page of ramen chain Ippudo did this by asking fans to post reviews that encourage the restaurant crew. In return, they promised $50 worth of vouchers to three lucky reviewers per month.
When you hold a contest, make it a point to monitor the page and respond immediately to questions about the mechanics. And be sure to post an announcement once you’ve chosen the winners, too!
9. Take a poll
Taking a poll doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Just choose a topic your audience cares about – like food.
You can choose Facebook’s poll feature, or simply post a question.
Olive Garden, for example, asked audiences to choose their favourite pasta topping:
The post garnered 354 comments and 591 shares within 19 hours. Like a good social media poster, Olive Garden didn’t leave it there, but joined in the conversation.
It’s also good to display the choices both as text and image, like Olive Garden. Studies show that Facebook posts with images gain 2.3x more engagement than those without.
10. Share promo codes
Sharing a promo code via Facebook not only drives sales – it also gives you an idea of how effective your social media efforts are.
Try having a different code for each campaign you run. Or you could simply add a field asking them where they first saw the promo code.
Here’s an example from PF Chang’s:
Make the promo code simple and memorable, like the one in the example above: WINNING.
Talk with your sales and customer service teams, too, to discuss other restaurant promotion ideas, like cash discounts and loyalty programs.
11. Give a shout out to partner businesses
Try teaming up with businesses that complement your restaurant. These can be ingredient suppliers like wineries, coffee roasters, and farmers’ markets. They can also include events organizers and kitchen appliance makers.
Haute cuisine restaurant Aria in Sydney collaborated with a beer brewer and an opera ensemble. They were happy to share this with their fans:
Aria also tagged their partners’ pages. Apart from building goodwill with their business partner, this strategy increases the restaurant’s audience by making them visible on the brewer’s and opera’s pages.
12. Share your values
It’s not just about supporting a cause – it’s about incorporating your advocacy into every part of your operations.
Azurmendi, a restaurant in Spain, does this well, telling a story through text and images.
There are plenty of posts like these on Azurmendi’s Facebook page. But they also walk their talk – partnering with local farmers and participating in food sustainability conferences.
No wonder Azurmendi received the 2018 Sustainable Restaurant Award from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
13. Include a call to action
Call-to-action (CTA) buttons on Facebook work so simply that you could miss out on lots of opportunities if you don’t use them.
With a CTA button, you can reduce the number of steps needed to call you, visit your site, join a contest, book a table, or order a delivery.
Italian restaurant Firezza uses CTAs repeatedly, and the strategy works. Take a look at the CTAs we’ve pointed out in the example below:
Apart from the default Facebook buttons of ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘share’, Firezza has a ‘shop now’ button that leads to their website page for delivery orders.
Without the ‘shop now’ button, customers would have had to:
1) Open a new browser tab
2) Search for Firezza’s website
3) Click on the website
4) Find the delivery order page
The post above also shows a URL that leads to a landing page for a specific promo – in this case, 33% off. Firezza’s page also contains two ‘send message’ buttons that don’t disappear even as you scroll down.
Before you share a promo code on social media, though, make sure you’ve got your restaurant’s online ordering system all set up.
14. Celebrate with your audience
World Emoji Day? When did that become a thing?
Nevertheless, the Cheesecake Factory remembered to celebrate this obscure holiday with a photo and a bid for audience interaction:
Of course, they celebrate legit holidays, too.
15. Use a trending hashtag
Being a family restaurant, Chuck E. Cheese posts about fun activities, such as games for kids. In the post below, they targeted families who might watch the movie Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Strategically, they not only mentioned the movie – they used the hashtag for it. The use of a popular movie’s hashtag exposes Chuck E. Cheese’s post to a larger audience.
At the same time, they avoided using too many hashtags, placing the spotlight on a single, trending tag.
17. Use a video as a page header
When you visit Nando’s Facebook page, you’re greeted not by a static cover photo, but by a video.
Nando’s is on to something here. After all, many experts believe video is the future of marketing.
Just make sure the video’s file size is compressed for social media, so that it won’t take long to load. Also, when planning the video, remember the dimensions required for Facebook covers.
Remember to check how fast the video loads when using cellular data, as 95.1 percent of Facebook users are said to access the network via mobile phone.
18. Use a custom URL
‘Chopsticks’ isn’t exactly a rare name for a restaurant, as any Google searcher will find out. A custom URL will help direct people to the right page.
See the URL of The Chopsticks restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City:
19. Feature your staff
Your crew members work hard to give diners a good meal, and even a memorable experience. Let your fans join you in celebrating their efforts.
This crew video by Osteria Francescana – a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Modena, Italy – is bound to get viewers cheering along:
Another video shows a chef passionately defending his pasta. It may be an act, but it’s fun and hints at the restaurant’s commitment to their way of cooking.
20. Work with influencers
Carnivore, a popular churrascaria in Singapore, worked with lifestyle bloggers to help them become a ‘top of mind’ choice for Mother’s Day weekend.
While working with influencers is nothing new, it doesn’t always work. One tip is to choose influencers whose fans fit your own target market profile.
Consider influencers in other genres too, like vloggers and podcasters.
But no matter what type of influencer you choose to work with, always strive to keep the content authentic.
20. Use memes, but sparingly
There’s a reason this tip is the last on the list – memes tend to backfire as a marketing strategy.
But when done right, a meme can provide multiple rewards. It definitely worked for Lucky’s Burger & Brew Emory Village, based on a review on TripAdvisor:
Read that again – and we mean look at that sentence at the top: “I came here for this burger after seeing the meme on Facebook!”
So the restaurant made a meme featuring their four-pound all-beef patty – and a person all the way from Ohio (according to the full review) travelled almost a thousand kilometres to try it.
Now that’s some seriously creative, effective restaurant marketing.