Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Restaurants discover Instagram

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Restaurants discover Instagram https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/instagram1-580x198.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

Like it or not, restaurants cannot live without social media in this day and age. Restaurant operators that stubbornly and shortsightedly avoid establishing presences on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets are cheating themselves out of important opportunities to connect with potential customers and new demographics.

One social network that’s of growing interest to restaurateurs is Instagram. Instagram was created in 2010 by two San Francisco developers. As of December 2014, more than 300 million people use the platform every month.

Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service. It is well known as a place where users share images of friends, pets and, most significantly, their food.

Restaurant guests, however, are not the only ones who are photographing their meals. Chefs and restaurants are also getting into the act, so there’s no reason not to grab your own camera and show off your restaurant’s gastronomical creations on this popular platform.

Although restaurants have been somewhat slower than other businesses to establish and promote their own Instagram accounts, the ones that do it well are proving what a strong outreach tool it can be. Everyone from the ritziest high-end eateries to the smallest, most unpretentious mom and pop hole-in-the-wall joints are using Instagram to give potential customers a visual taste of their restaurants.

“It has a very direct effect on business,” Scott Schroder, chef at Philadelphia’s American Sardine Bar and the South Philly Tap Room, who extensively uses Instagram to promote his menu items, told the National Restaurant Association. “It gets a lot of attention – that part is very easy. It’s free PR. It’s amazing that with such little effort and zero cost I can get these kinds of results. I put a daily special up on Instagram and people come in for it that night.”

Schroder said he encourages other employees to take photos, too, including the sous chef. Once this done, the photos can be cross-promoted on Twitter by liking or retweeting. Additionally, Schoeder retweets and comments on photos taken by his customers.

Timing is also important when using Instagram to promote your restaurant. For example, according to Schroeder, photos promoting specials, are best sent out around 5 p.m., when people are leaving work with dinner plans on their mind. On the other hand, the best times to send photos promoting brunch specials are Saturday or Sunday morning.

Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s digital marketing service provider, Yesmail, recently researched social media use by more than 2,000 brands. The data showed that brands utilizing Instagram saw 278 percent in growth of followers during 2014.

Nevertheless, use of Instagram is low in comparison to other social media platforms. When brands utilize three social networks, a mere 12 percent include Instagram in their social marketing. If brands add a fourth network, the number of brands using Instagram climbs to 37 percent. If they use five platforms, 47 percent will be on Instagram.

“It surprises me that more brands are not developing their presence on Instagram,” Michael Fisher, president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, in a statement. “With over 300 million users and 70 million photos and videos shared daily, by not investing in a social strategy that includes Instagram, brands are missing a sizeable opportunity to further engage with their customers.”

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