5 Clever Ways Restaurants Can Use Instagram Stories

March 15, 2019 04:43 PM

The pictures may vanish in a day, but they will linger in your customers' minds for much longer.


Use Instagram Story features, like polls, to interact with customers. (Photo: ImYanis/Shutterstock)


by Joni Sweet


You’ve created your Google business listing, you’re actively monitoring your Yelp reviews and you’re posting regularly on all the major social media platforms. You’ve got your restaurant’s online reputation on lockdown. But how do you earn even more social clout?


It’s time to start using Instagram Stories — the feature on the image-driven social media platform that allows you to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. The time limit creates a sense of urgency that drives users to engage right away.


As of October 2017, there were around 300 million daily active Instagram Stories users, posting about everything from what they’re eating to the vacations they’re taking.


“Customers want to take photos of their meals and share them on Stories, which can be a great way for a restaurant to be seen by more potential customers than their own social media alone,” said Andrew Selepak, director of the graduate program in social media at the University of Florida. “But this also means that restaurants should be more active on Stories because they know their customers are out there talking about their establishment, and they need to be part of the conversation.”


So how do you create engaging Stories for your restaurant on Instagram? Here, Selepak offers some clever strategies you can use to market your restaurant and engage customers on this increasingly popular platform.


Set the ambience


Shots of food are incredibly popular on Instagram. But promoting your decor and atmosphere can also entice diners to come in for a meal, said Selepak.


“Instagram Stories are a great way to show off the look and feel of a restaurant and let customers know what to expect beyond what’s on the menu,” he said.


Next time you notice afternoon sunlight pouring through the dining room window, the romantic quality of a candlelit table for two or a royal table setting for a VIP customer, snap a photo and share it on Instagram Stories. You can use the feature’s filters, fonts and stickers to heighten the mood of the photo.


Capture food prep


There’s something captivating about a chef chopping veggies, stirring a steaming pot of soup or flipping a burger on the grill — all moments that make great Instagram Stories for your restaurant. But giving customers a behind-the-scenes look at how the food is made has an additional benefit, said Selepak.


“Instagram Stories let a restaurant show off the food prep areas and the line so customers know where they eat not only offers good food, but also that it also prepares meals in a clean area with staff taking proper health precautions.”


If you want to capture the action of food prep with Instagram Stories, try using the Boomerang feature. It shoots a rapid-fire burst of 10 images, then turns them into a quick video that loops forward and backward indefinitely.


Showcase fresh foods


The colors and shapes of fresh foods make attractive Instagram Stories content. Get closeup photos of your seasonal ingredients to share online, said Selepak.


“Restaurants can show off fresh meat and produce being delivered so customers know what they are eating has not been sitting around in the freezer or dry storage for days,” he said.


If your staff sources ingredients from the farmer’s market, have them share the experience on your restaurant’s Instagram account. You could also add text into the Stories to give clues about what you’ll be making with those ingredients. For example, if you’re posting a photo of a box of bright orange carrots, use the text tool to say something like, “Soon… carrot cake!”


Take a poll


The poll feature on Instagram Stories allows you to pose a question and let your followers choose between two possible answers. Polls are an opportunity to get feedback and increase engagement with your brand, said Selepak.


“A restaurant could ask followers which of two items they love more, or if they want something added to the menu,” he said.


Even if many people see your polls, not everyone will vote. So treat your Instagram Stories polls as something fun, rather than a deciding factor in your business decisions, added Selepak. The real benefit of polls is the engagement factor.


“Polls allow followers to interact with the account, which is a good thing because it keeps the restaurant on the top of their mind when it comes to deciding where to dine next.”


Go live


Hosting a big party or special event at your restaurant? Use the “live” feature on Instagram Stories to share the fun in real time, said Selepak.


“Some restaurants do more than serve food; [they] also know how to have a good time. Instagram Live is an opportunity to broadcast to customers the events going on right now.”


If you’re starting a recurring events series, like local music performances every Monday night, go live on Instagram Stories during the premiere to start drumming up excitement — and hopefully draw bigger crowds the following week.


Instagram Stories vanish quickly, but linger in the minds of customers much longer. Invest a few minutes in using this tool every day to increase engagement and show off a behind-the-scenes look at your restaurant.