12 ways to grow your restaurant’s Instagram following

It’s a free marketing tool – and can be a great way to find new customers. But are you doing it right? Here are 12 ways to grow your following.

1. Take better photos

If a picture is grainy, blurry or it doesn’t make the food look good, don’t post it. Instagram works on an algorithm that measures how much people like a photo, and how long they spend looking at it, so posting bad photos actually hurts your reach. Of course professional pictures are great, but if you don’t have a budget for that, there are some things you can do to improve photos taken on your phone. Always take food pics in daylight – food always looks terrible in artificial light – and make sure your phone’s lens is clean. (A greasy, dirty lens will make your picture blurry.) Studies have shown that users respond best to brighter, warmer, higher contrast pictures. The best way to do this is with natural light, but you can use filters and editing in Instagram to tweak these slightly. Though don’t overdo it – especially with food!

Fire eggs! Fire baked eggs in a tomato chickpea stew with Swiss chard, aubergine, fresh herbs and toast!

A post shared by WHOLESOME (@wholesomebehindclarkes) on

2. Consider your captions

Typing the restaurant phone number and address seems to be the default for some restaurants, but an engaging, relevant caption that describes the dish pictured, or tells a story about your brand, will get liked and shared more.


Honeycomb and crêpe cake with poached naartjie cream. #cakes #verilymoment #chefsofinstagram #janhendrik

A post shared by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (@janhendrik) on


3. Create a personality for your restaurant

Remember to post from the restaurant’s perspective (not “I”, but “we”). Are you playful? Are you serious about sustainability? Are you quirky? Are you funny?

4. Interact and comment on posts about your area

Instagram communities mirror real communities. By commenting on pictures posted from your area – in a constructive, interested way – you’ll help to create a personality for your restaurant and subtly alert locals and people visiting your area about your restaurant as an option.



5. Tell people when you’re open on public holidays

It can be tricky to find restaurants that are open on public holidays, so alerting your fans to the fact that you’re staying open will help them out. It’s also useful to tell them you’re closed, to avoid disappointment.

6. Post regularly

But not too much. If your fans see your content too much, they’ll tire of it, and start scrolling past without looking. Eventually Instagram will take the hint, and stop showing your followers your posts. Once a day is a good goal to aim for.



7. Post your most ridiculously decadent dishes

We have Instagram to thank for the popularity of crazy dishes like freakshakes and crazy doughnuts. But even if that’s not you, it’s worth photographing your more decadent dishes. Do you have an oozing chocolate fondant? A toasted cheese sarmie? A short video or Boomerang can help create buzz about something that will trigger people to tag their friends.

8. Use local hashtags

While it might do well with users in Brazil, #coffee won’t help you find more flat white drinkers in your neighbourhood, whereas #rosebank or #capetown will. Also consider using hashtags for your uniquely South African dishes. #Malvapudding is far more likely to find local users than #chocolate.


Another shot of our Beef Chasseur.

A post shared by Fermier Restaurant (@fermierrestaurant) on


9. By all means, repost beautiful follower pics

Especially if they come with gushing captions. But make sure you follow Instagram etiquette and tag them as the photographer.

10. Use it to share new specials

But make sure you’re ready. You might just get a run of orders!



11. Show off your interior too

It helps to give potential customers an idea of the atmosphere.



#EBnewlands Opening tomorrow. Bookings:


A post shared by EL Burro (@_el_burro) on


12. Respond to what your audience wants

Finding out what works with your customers is a constant work-in-progress. Spend a bit of time taking stock of what kind of posts worked well in the past and which didn’t.


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