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Social Marketing Tips for Independent Restaurants - More Than Just Your Restaurant POS

Running a small restaurant chain or a single store operation? I bet you have loads of time and resources to spend on marketing your business!  No??  Already working an 80-hour week you say? No budget for TV commercials or full-page magazine ads?  Do not fret – we’ve got you covered!  In this blog series I will give my two cents as a marketer (and an avid restaurant-goer) on what social trends have recently piqued my interest, and perhaps have gotten me to pop over to happy hour!

For this first edition, here are just 3 simple tips to maximize the marketing bang for your budget (and bandwidth) in your independent restaurant operation:

  1. Leverage social influencers. 

You have definitely heard about this before, but perhaps you think that Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber are out of reach for your small chain, and perhaps you are right.  Not all of us can have a Kim K in their back pocket.  But there may be some great local personas who happen to frequent your establishment (and who also might happen to have decent social followings)?

I used to waitress at a small restaurant chain in the Midwest and I remember being utterly star struck when I delivered a grande margarita to Becky of Becky’s Tile and Carpet!!! – a minor celebrity in my hometown, but a major celebrity in my heart.  Becky’s Tile and Carpet has since closed their doors, but if they were still open, it would be worth getting a feel for whether or not Becky enjoyed her cocktail and if yes, whether she might want to tweet about it.  One positive tweet or Instagram post can expose your brand to thousands of new people who might in turn follow your socials, or maybe even order a margarita themselves one day.

  1. Uplevel your photos.

You already know that a picture is worth 1,000 words – but a beautiful picture is also worth 1,000 engagements on social. While professional photography is the ultimate way to produce delicious pictures of your menu items, not every independent restaurant operation can host professional photoshoots on the reg.  But there are now (more than ever) simple and cheap new ways to uplevel your food photography to garner drool-worthy social engagement.

Apple has made beautiful photography extremely accessible with their portrait mode which is actually a type of combination photography (using a dual camera) that artificially applies blur to the background of pictures. Although this mode was designed with human models in mind, it also works for F&B photography and can really give a photo taken on your iPhone a professional look and feel.


The image above was taken by my fellow Oracle marketer, Shannon Straub, at our recent IHOP video shoot.  She shot this with her iPhone 10. Looks super professional, right!? And now I want pancakes...

Don’t have the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X? Fake it ‘til you make it, and there’s an app for that!  There are a handful of really great free apps that help turn ordinary photos into portrait mode lookalikes. I used the appropriately named free app “Portrait Mode” to bring my recent cheeseburger adventure to life:

This is before I edited the photo:

This is after I edited it:

Not as good as the pancakes, but not bad, right?

  1. Facebook events.

Yes, Facebook is for us oldtimers. But alas, this network is still growing every single day and is therefore still important for independent restaurants as a marketing platform.

A friend and I love a good street taco (and a good marg just like our friend, Becky).  There is a tasty place right near her house and they host #ThirstyThursdays – All. Day. Long.  My friend saw that they were advertising this unicorn of a happy hour as a Facebook event and she invited me to it.  Obviously I accepted, and noticed that this restaurant set their event up as a reoccurring event so every Thursday I get a push notification from my Facebook app that says, “You have an event coming up today – Thirsty Thursday”.  And every Thursday I want to drink margs from 11 until close.

Do you have an all-you-can-eat fried chicken special on Sundays?  Or maybe kids eat free on Tuesday nights?  You might benefit from setting up a reoccurring Facebook event to remind your fans that – hey – today is that event you are interested in.  It gets me interested every single Thursday.

Don't we look happy??

These are just a few social tips that I’ve gotten wind of over the past few months that you can try out if you’re looking for some new marketing ideas.  Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog series for more info – and as always, feel free to reach out to us if you would like to talk to an industry expert.

Find more resources on how to grow your independent restaurant including customer success stories, product quick tours, and restaurant POS information.

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