Social media for restaurants: Instagram Stories

restaurant front

Since the launch of Snapchat, every social platform is scrambling to come up with its own tool that allows users to broadcast their lives in real time. Instagram stories are one of the more successful of those attempts — a user-friendly extension of the popular photo app that essentially does the same thing as Snapchat (even incorporating the image and text overlay functions), just on the Instagram platform.  As Instagram is still one of the most influential marketing tools for restaurants, if you’re not already using Stories — it’s time to learn.

How does it work?

Instagram Stories are incredibly user-friendly. Just tap on the “+” sign on the top left part of your Instagram feed, and you’re ready to snap a photo or record video, just as you would on Instagram. You can also pull a video or a photo off of your phone. There are options for captioning your image, as well as adding stickers, or tagging others. You can shoot multiple scenes to string your story together, just as you would in Snapchat. After 24 hours, your story will disappear. 

Tips for success

Two diners are looking at their mobile phone while seating in a restaurant

Don’t treat it exactly like Snapchat

Think of Instagram Stories as a slightly more refined version of Snapchat. Whereas the live content on Snapchat leans more unfiltered and casual, Instagram Stories tend to be much more polished and edited. This is the platform for your gorgeous video of the sunset on the back patio of your restaurant, or a well-lit photo series going through your tasting menu.

Don’t treat it like a TV show, either

Instagram Stories is a destination for short, easy-to-digest content. People should be able to understand the message you are trying to get across in a few seconds — don’t overcomplicate.

Use it to unroll new menu items

There’s nothing people love Instagram more for than looking at an amazing photo of food. Take beauty shots of new menu items, and caption them with a few words from the chef about the inspiration behind them. Also, while the rest of Instagram runs on an algorithm that determines which stories will appear on your feed, Instagram Stories is purely chronological — this means it’s the ideal tool to push timely content like this to your audience base.

Test out “anatomy of a dish” features

The clean layout of Instagram Stories is a great opportunity to showcase overhead-shot tutorials of how a dish comes together. Start with an empty plate and keep taking photos as you add a new element — all together, it’ll look like a professionally made GIF!

Go behind the scenes

Customers love getting that peek behind the curtain of how restaurants function — use Instagram Stories to take Boomerangs (short, sped-up videos) at the pass or in the kitchen, or to profile employees. Diners want to know you’re having as much fun in the kitchen as you are in the dining room.

Cross-promote your written content

Have a blog? Was a feature recently written about your spot that you want to highlight? Condense that content into an Instagram story — do a series of five photos of the five best rosés you’ll be pouring this summer, or a step-by-step on how to make your world-famous salad dressing. If you are a verified user, you can even link to the article straight from the Story; otherwise, you can put it in your Instagram bio.

Announce 24-hour offers

Take advantage of the fact that Instagram Stories only last a day — post a special offer (a free mini dessert, 20% off any glass of wine) alongside a fun picture, encouraging guests to beat the clock and come in to enjoy the deal. You can even do follow-up posts to your story counting down the hours until the promotion is over, encouraging diners to come in before it’s too late.

Partner with brands for takeovers

Have a particular brand that you love using? Give that company access your Instagram for the day, and let them take your users behind-the-scenes in their operations. If it’s a cheese company, maybe it’s a tour of the farm; if it’s wine, maybe it’s a tutorial on grape varietals. Get creative!