In recent days, Instagram has gone from a popular personal social media app to a full-fledged marketing tool with the ability to generate a competitive edge to brands that understand how to properly harness the platform’s potential. There is a good reason for this shift, as 80 percent of Instagram users say they follow at least one business on the app, and 75 percent take action after looking at a brand’s content, according to Hootsuite. Instagram is a marketer’s dream of visually driven content, and one of the platform’s favorite topics is food.
As a marketer in the restaurant industry, your strategies are aligned with your brand’s overall marketing goals. Instagram is an easy-to-use tool that delivers the perfect opportunity to showcase just how irresistible your food is via pictures, highlight can’t-miss special offers, share customer experiences, and track and leverage industry trends.
The prevalence of Instagram has brought many food trends – especially healthy eating trends – mainstream more quickly. Instagram has introduced us to trendsetting menu items like avocado toast and matcha lattes and helped establish highly engaged communities around healthy eating and special diets like Whole30, paleo and Keto. And the demand for healthier food is only increasing. According to a Feb. 2019 study by Tastewise, there is $9 billion demand for healthy food in restaurants across the country.
So how do you as a restaurant marketer leverage these healthy food trends for your own brand?
Track and Use Hashtags
One of instagram’s most-widely used features is the ability to use hashtags to track trends and reach target audiences with your content. For example, if you’re a vegan restaurant based in Boston, follow and monitor location-based hashtags such as #bostonvegans and general hashtags like #vegansofig and #plantbasedfoodie to see both local and global food trends.
You can then tailor content and photos based on your findings on what topics and trends are the most popular. As a Boston vegan restaurant, you could promote #meatlessmondays with a special offer to help drive engagement on a slow restaurant day. To further drive engagement and reach Instagram audiences, you should be using a variety of hashtags, including those you’re tracking, in your content as well.
Listen to Your Customers
As a brand on social media, you should constantly be monitoring customer feedback and engagement. With an engaged customer base on Instagram, you can track which menu items are trending based on what your followers are sharing and tagging in posts and stories, combined with your sales results. Identifying and tracking those trends can help determine menu specials and promotions to offer in the future, which then can be showcased on your Instagram channel.
You can also use polls and questions in Instagram stories and questions in your post content to ask for customer feedback on menu items and offers. If you’re considering adding a new menu item, you can test it with your followers by asking for feedback or having them vote between two menu items. Customers are always excited to be asked for input, and Instagram is a fun way to capture that feedback and maintain regular engagement with your audience.
Engage with Influencers
Restaurants can also add influencer marketing to the mix. Partnering with an influencer can help increase brand awareness, engage with target audiences, increase your social followers and drive traffic to your restaurants.
According to influencer marketing platform Upfluence, “The healthy food movement has become an unstoppable trend, due in large part to a greater cultural awareness of nutrition. The move towards healthier foods has been driven by consumer demand, and in general the industry has been quick to respond, with many brands reformulating or remarketing their goods.” They add, “Social media is arguably the source of this new healthy food trend, and thus is one of the most efficient ways to market health foods, particularly via influencer marketing.”
When starting an influencer marketing campaign, it’s important to keep in mind your marketing goals. If you want to increase followers or brand awareness, consider gift card or food giveaways. If you want to drive engagement with your brand or are launching a large-scale campaign, look at a series of sponsored post with influencers who align with your target audiences and have an engaged following – helping drive your call to action and messaging with their followers.
A few recent campaigns that successfully merged influencer marketing and healthy eating trends include:
- Panera Bread launched a “Food Interrupted” video campaign in fall 2018 that included top chefs and social media influencers to discuss issues (and healthy eating trends) such as plant-based diets, sugar consumption and egg production and tout its clean eating ingredients.
- Fast-casual concept Überrito recently launched a new FlexMex menu and campaign with the help of influencer marketing and healthy food trends. By partnering with influencers who live with specific dietary needs, the concept worked with them to create their own paleo, gluten-free and points-friendly menu items and also developed meals for ketogenic, low-calorie, high-protein, vegetarian and vegan diets.
Whether you’re a growing multi-unit chain or a mom-and-pop restaurant, there are multiple approaches to using Instagram to leverage healthy eating trends in your restaurant marketing strategy.