On its surface, Instagram is simple. Post a photo, write a caption, add a couple of hashtags. But if you do all that, and your follower numbers don’t budge, it may be time to consider a deeper dive into your Instagram strategy.

Your Instagram popularity may have little to do with the quality of your food or service. Sure, there are ways to make your food more Instagram-worthy. But, so much has to do with the way you’re perceived by potential diners online.

To grow your restaurant’s Instagram presence can be pivotal for business. 30% of millennial diners will avoid a restaurant with a weak Instagram account. And, since millennials eat out 30% more than any other generation, that could equal huge losses for your business.

It’s a long-term process to build followers and engagement on Instagram. Here are three few things you can start doing right now to see impressive results.

1. Implement Strategic Geotags

You probably know what a geotag is, even if you’re not familiar with the term. A geotag is simply a location tag that you can include with your Instagram posts. Consider geotags Instagram’s equivalent to a Facebook check-in.

Why use geotags?

Because posts that use a tagged location have 79% more engagement than posts that don’t!

Plus, when you tag your location, you provide a quick link where followers can see where you are on a map. They’ll also see previous customers’ posts that also used your geotag.

How to geotag your location

For posts, just click on “Add location” after you write your caption, and search for your location name.

For stories, you need to add your location with a sticker. Click on the sticker icon up at the top — it’s the smiley face in a box.

Select the sticker labeled “Location”, and type in your restaurant’s name. Now you have linked your story to your geotag.

Engage with your guests

A benefit of geotags is you can easily find customers who have been to your restaurant. Remember how clicking on your geotag will pull up all your third-party posts with that tag? Check in to see what people said, and encourage further engagement.

You could:

  • Thank them for coming in
  • Compliment their choice of entree or cocktail
  • Let them know about an upcoming event
  • Congratulate them on a birthday or anniversary
  • Ask if you can repost one of their photos on your own page. Most people will say yes!

Geotag other locations

Tagging your restaurant location is a good practice for day-to-day Instagram posts. But you may want to consider tagging some other locations too.

Food Events

Do you participate in any food festivals or charity events? Events like Taste of Chicago and Memphis in May draw out the foodies. If you’re participating, tag the festival’s location to let attendees know.


If there is a city-wide festival in your town, use the festival’s geotag in one of your posts. Events like SXSW in Austin, Aloha Festival in Hawaii, and Telluride Film Festival in Colorado draw in huge numbers of tourists each year.

Visitors will search the festival’s geotags to see what’s going on while they’re in town, so make it easy to find your restaurant!

Broader Locations

It may also be a good idea to geotag a broader location. Is your restaurant on a popular street or in an entertainment district? If so, consider geotagging the street or district name, or even your whole city.

Visitors to the area may search local geotags to see what there is to do in the neighborhood. You want to make sure your restaurant appears as an option.

2. Reach out to local food influencers

Influencer marketing is huge, and it’s only getting bigger. Only 2% of influencer marketers plan on decreasing their budgets in 2019. That’s because 80% say influencer marketing is effective. And Instagram is the most effective platform for influencer marketing.

You don’t need a big marketing budget to convince influencers to create content that features your product. They share dining experiences with their followers every day.

Offer influencers a free meal in exchange for exposure on their Instagram accounts. They get to create their content at no cost. You get access to their followers, building awareness for your restaurant and reaching a new audience. Everyone wins.

How to choose an influencer

Consider these factors when selecting an influencer to work with.

Quality of Content

You want an influencer who takes great photos and posts great captions. Search common foodie hashtags like #foodporn and #instafood to find influencers with jaw-dropping photos. Or, do a Google search for the best food bloggers in your town. If they have high-quality blogs, they’ll have excellent Instagram feeds as well.

Target Audience

Next, look at your target audience. You want an influencer whose demographic matches your own. A high-end steakhouse may want an influencer who highlights upscale dinners or meat-centric meals. But an urban coffee shop may want an influencer who caters to college students or freelancers who want a strong cup of coffee and a quiet place to work.


Number of followers is a good metric to consider when choosing an influencer. But it’s not as important as engagement. An engagement rate is the percentage of your followers that like or comment on a post.

Here is a helpful equation:

Since some posts will do better than others, it’s best to find an average engagement rate over a month. This will give you a clearer picture of the influencer’s overall engagement.

Here’s how it’s done:

This will give you the influencer’s average per-post engagement rate.

  • <1% — low engagement
  • 1% – 3.5% — average engagement
  • 5% – 6% — high engagement
  • >6% — very high engagement.

Why is this important? After all, not everyone who sees a post will like or comment, right? Remember this — 100,000 followers don’t do any good if none of them are aware of the content. A high engagement level indicates followers are paying attention. It’s a must if you’re going to build brand awareness.

3. Put hashtags in the first comment

Rather than putting your hashtags in the caption of your photo, put them in the first comment on your post. You’ll still get the same exposure and engagement and it keeps your caption clean and concise. If they’re too long, people tend to skip over them.

Even the best Instagram captions for your restaurant only help if people read them!

What should you tag?

Start with popular restaurant tags like these:

  • #restaurant
  • #food
  • #foodporn
  • #foodie
  • #instafood

Keep in mind these tags have huge numbers of posts on Instagram. Supplement them with some more specific tags, too. Try hashtags for your city, your street, and your restaurant name. These location hashtags will work much like geotagging, which we discussed above.

Also, use some hashtags to reflect what makes you unique. If you’re a tiki bar, try hashtags like:

  • #tikibarlife
  • #tikicocktails
  • #tikiculture
  • #tikiparty
  • #tikimug
  • #tikibar

The audience for these terms will be more targeted, which should result in more engagement. If you run out of ideas, look at related hashtags. These will appear at the top of a hashtag results page.

If you have an Instagram business account, you’ll be able to see how many impressions you receive from hashtags. This will help you to establish whether your hashtag strategy works and if you need to switch it up.

How many should you tag?

Instagram allows a total of 30 hashtags per post. These can be in the caption, comments, or a combination of both. Some research indicates after 9 hashtags, post engagement starts to drop.

But others say to use all 30 available hashtags to maximize your chances to be found by users. There are many ways to find the best hashtags for Instagram.

The best approach? Experiment. Try posts with 9, 10, 11, 15, 20, 25…you get the idea. See what does well and what falls flat.

But make sure that whatever hashtags you use, they’re relevant. If you use the same 30 hashtags on every post, Instagram could consider that “spammy” behavior and reduce your posts’ visibility.


Instagram provides some great tools to help businesses attract attention. Although this isn’t a comprehensive guide to Instagram for restaurants, these three basic techniques will increase your visibility and engagement. It’s also beneficial to learn from restaurants on Instagram that leverage it well.

It can seem that as soon as we master one social media platform, there’s another one to learn. But you don’t have to be an algorithm expert to try these three simple hacks. Restaurant marketing on Instagram doesn’t have to be hard.

In many ways, we’re lucky. Marketing used to be much more limited and expensive. We were at the mercy of print, radio, and TV, with their limited ad space and steep prices.

Now, you can deliver your messages straight to your customer’s pockets for free. And that’s worth learning a few new tricks.

Do you have any killer Instagram strategies that improved your follower count and engagement? Let us know in the comments!


Author Bio: Named “the 19 year old revolutionizing restaurant marketing” by MRM Magazine, Adam Guild writes on restaurant marketing for Forbes and helps hundreds of restaurants succeed through his marketing company, Placepull.