The 7 Most Rewarding Social Media Tactics for Restaurants and Bars

Business.com / Industry / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Revamp your restaurant or bar's social media tactics to gain new followers online and loyal customers offline.

When potential customers want to grab a quick bite, get a drink after work, or sample the neighborhood's best up-and-coming eateries, where do they find local restaurants and bars?

They turn to their friends on social media or search online services like Yelp and Foursquare for recommendations.

Whether you’re trying to spread the word about a new restaurant or are looking for ways to earn new customers at an established location, you need to have an online presence to succeed.

Here are the seven most rewarding social media tactics for restaurants and bars, complete with examples of brands who are attracting new customers to their brick-and-mortar locations using social media.

T.J. Walkers Restaurant FB post
T.J. Walker's Restaurant and Brewery doubles it's social reach by partnering with neighborhood icon Chester's BBQ

1. Double Social Media Reach With Strategic Partnerships

Team up with a food truck, restaurant, brewery, or bakery in your area that shares a similar clientele, preferably one that offers something you don’t. If you own a bar or brewery, for instance, arrange for a food truck to set up shop in your parking lot one night a week and offer hungry patrons a bite. In exchange, have them broadcast how amazing your drinks are on social media, and invite customers to check out your business while they eat.

By joining forces, you can double your reach and appeal to groups you may otherwise not be able to target. You also open the door for other types of lucrative relationships down the line, like joint coupons, community events, and catering opportunities.

If a group doesn’t exist in your area, create one of your own on Facebook or Instagram and populate it with posts from yourself and employees. Your restaurant's social media  should look natural, so make sure to highlight great restaurants in the area and try not to be overly promotional when you mention your own business. This is a great way to build up your name and increase the buzz surrounding your eatery, and locals will eventually post their own favorite spots and foodie events.

Related Article:Food Photo Frenzy: Inside the Instagram Craze and Travel Trend

ChicagofoodandDrink Instagram post
Join or start a neighborhood group on Facebook or Instagram, like chicagofoodanddrink

2. Target Community-Run Social Media Groups

Most cities have “Best Of” pages and other community groups where local foodies give their recommendations and reviews for neighborhood restaurants. These insider groups are perfect for snagging new customers, especially if your restaurant has recently opened its doors.

If a group doesn’t exist in your area, create one of your own on Facebook or Instagram and populate it with posts from yourself and employees. Your restaurant's social media should look natural, so make sure to highlight great restaurants in the area and try not to be overly promotional when you mention your own business. This is a great way to build up your name and increase the buzz surrounding your eatery, and locals will eventually post their own favorite spots and foodie events.

Restaurant listings on Foursquare
To gain customers via Foursquare and Yelp, make sure to claim your profile and moderate comments, even if they are negative

3. Increase Your Presence on FourSquare and Yelp

Die-hard foodies won’t bother attending a restaurant that has so-so reviews on Yelp, and many consult FourSquare for suggestions of quality eateries in their area. To improve the reputation of your business on these platforms, first, make sure you are listed correctly. Someone may have already created a listing for your business, so make sure you formally claim it so that the address and other details are correct. You can do that here for FourSquare and here for Yelp.

The best way to use these online tools to your benefit is to make sure you have a listing full of positive, detailed reviews that sound trustworthy. Incentivize honest Yelp reviews by offering a discount on their next meal, or a free desert each time they check in on Four Square and leave a tip.

Always monitor your accounts, and respond to negative reviews on Yelp or “tips” on FourSquare, offer diners who were displeased with their experience a free meal. This can be a great way to show prospective customers that you truly care about their satisfaction, and will do everything you can to make sure they leave satisfied.

Related Article:Retail Search Technology: Crown Jewels and Dirty Little Secrets

Groupon Discount offer for Japanese restaurant
To stand out on GroupOn, try adding a personalized photo of an employee or your best-selling dish

4. Try Out a Groupon Deal

Offering deals on GroupOn and similar deal sites can bring in new customers and fill seats during times when business is predictably slow. It’s also a great way to encourage regulars to bring friends or relatives with them who might also love your food and become loyal repeat customers.

To help your restaurant stand out on GroupOn and get the most from your deal, avoid using generic stock photos and instead feature a photo of your staff or best-selling dish. Consider giving different deals based on table size and peak dining times, offering tempting discounts to those willing come in on slower days of the week.

Free cookie offer from Rennie's Cookies Co. On FB
Offer freebies, like Just Rennie's Cookie Co., in exchange for social shares and likes

5. Offer Fans Exclusive Discounts and Freebies

One sure way to gain followers on social media is by offering exclusive discounts for those who follow your brand. You can also boost likes and shares by offering a freebie or giveaway for those who engage with your posts. Whether you’re giving away a dozen free cookies or giving the first 10 people to comment 50 percent off their meal, it’s a great way to get customers talking and make sure they are checking your feeds regularly for new offers.

Sloppy Joes Restaurant FB post of employee appreciation dinner
Keep employees happy and help familiarize customers with your staff by posting regular employee appreciation updates

6. Spotlight Your Best Employees

Showing that you care about your employees on social media humanizes your business and lets new customers meet your staff long before they make a reservation. Moreover, recognizing your employees on social improves job satisfaction and engagement, and makes them much more likely to inspire a positive customer review.

Post updates and pictures for "Employee of the Month" awards, staff get-togethers, birthdays, and any other special occasion. Don’t be afraid to use humor and playful language letting your customers get to know you and your employees makes them much more likely to come in, bring their friends, and recommend your business to others.

Related Article:Fashion Forward: Top 10 Retail Trends for 2016

Becco Restaurant post on National Hashtag campaign
Becco Restaurant takes advantage of national hashtag campaigns like #SaveUglyFood

7. Master Hashtags

Using popular hashtags allows potential customers to easily find your posts, even if they’ve never heard of your restaurant. Take advantage of holidays, local sports events, and national hashtag campaigns to bring new eyes to your social media profiles. Also, try putting on theme nights at your restaurant and incorporate hashtags like #TacoTuesday or #ThirstyThursday to keep customers coming back for weekly specials.

Social media can seem intimidating, especially for restaurant and bar owners who want to help their business stand out in a saturated market. Incorporate these tactics into your social media strategy, and you’ll be seven steps closer to increasing your customer base, improving customer loyalty, and giving your brand the online reputation it deserves.

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