Food porn is not a dirty word. It’s a big and serious business, and it’s been one of Instagram’s major sources of content for a while. When the simple pizza has more hashtag mentions than living, breathing, pop culture royalty like Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian, you can bet that some people and businesses are using that trend to make money.

As a restaurant owner, you should be among those people. What Instagram can do for a restaurant is to provide a channel to reach new customers. From there, a marketing-savvy restaurateur can do everything from increasing the number of walk-ins to enhancing user experience through channel integration. So, Instagram can do a whole lot for someone who knows how to use it.

What Makes Instagram Such a Great Tool for Restaurants?

Instagram is a purely visual social network. It’s true that people can also write captions or post photos that contain nothing but text. But Instagram is still the social network for posting photos.

At the same time, presentation is a major concern of the culinary arts. Food doesn’t have to just taste and smell good to be appealing — it also needs to look the part. At the very least, it needs to not look bad.

A social network centered around visuals is the perfect place to promote something people judge on its looks, that’s for sure. But all those photos of food are more than just photos of things people eat. They are also signs of a lifestyle, and sometimes even a status symbol, which is also something people like to share on Instagram.

On top of all of that, Instagram is a vital social network that has recently crossed the one-billion-monthly-users mark. That also makes it a social network where you can find great tools such as the Instagram restaurants tool, which can reduce the time and effort that needs to go in into building a following or finding interested customers.

Find the People Near Your Restaurant

The best customer for a restaurant is a hungry one. However, thanks to the fact that people have access to the internet on the go through their smartphones, another type of customer have become equally as coveted: the customer who is near.

Instagram might not be able to track potential customer visitors, but it can provide some information about the locations where people take photos. Coupled with the Instagram restaurant tool, that type of data can be your way of engaging customers who like to eat in the restaurant’s area.

The restaurant tool acts like an Instagram auto liker — a program that automatically likes Instagram content based on certain criteria users can choose. In this case, the tool allows users to automatically like all the photos that are tagged with the location of their choosing.

Just how you use this feature is up to you. The most obvious way to use it is to target posts made in the restaurant’s area and the areas around it. However, there are plenty of reasons to cast the net even wider, especially if there’s a competitor whose customers would be better served by your establishment.

Find the People Who Like the Food You Offer

You don’t have to stop with the photos with specific location tags. Instagram can also help find the people who like to eat the food your restaurant serves. It can also help find people who ate at restaurants that are in direct competition with yours. Both are very interesting demographics to target.

The way to get the most out of Instagram is, again, with the Instagram restaurant tool. The tool has the functionality to automatically like the posts which have hashtags like #pizza, #sushi, or whatever your restaurant serves. That way the pizza lovers or sushi enthusiasts can see your restaurant engaging with them online and come check it out.

The tool works slightly differently when targeting a competitor’s audience. It offers the option to choose a username and then automatically likes the photos of the people who follow that account. The option is great for messing with the competition, but it’s also useful for targeting people who follow specific influencers and tastemakers.

Enhance User Experience

Instagram can affect the way people experience restaurants in multiple ways. At the very least, it’s making restaurants look a certain way to be attractive to people who’d go there to take photos. But it can also be a part of an integrated marketing and sales strategy that combines the digital and the analog.

Instagram can be the perfect channel to inform potential patrons of the latest deals. Posting content on Instagram can also be an integral part of what people need to do to gain points in a loyalty program. And any giveaway is bound to drum up more interest if it’s announced on Instagram. Instagram also provides the option to create shoppable posts. With them, people can purchase things directly from the app. And they can also make reservations at the restaurant from the app. Soon enough, Instagram will release some other useful way to integrate the digital and the analog experience.

Need help navigating your restaurant’s Instagram? Our friends over at Me:Mo are up for the challenge.

Final Thoughts

Instagram is an incredibly important social network for businesses right now. Unburdened by the affairs that are shaking Facebook, Instagram is free to grow and innovate away from troubles of its parent company. And that leads to robust user growth numbers.

For restaurants specifically, Instagram is a tool that helps reach new customers, engage existing ones, and create an enhanced customer experience. Simply put — Instagram can put feet through your restaurant’s door. But like any tool, it’s only as good as the person using it.

Interested in becoming a smarter hospitality marketer? Here's a Guide to Instagram for Hospitality Marketers from our friends over at GuestRevu.

Related Reading: Why Traditional Restaurant Marketing Isn’t Enough