Seven Tactics to Maximize Your Restaurant’s Organic Reach On Instagram

May 20th, 2019 by Marissa Maggio

In the world of pay-to-play, restaurants are seeing their organic reach diminish across social media. Organic reach is the number of unique people who have seen your unpromoted post. When posting organically, you rely on the social platform’s algorithm to distribute your content to whoever it chooses to show your post to.

In order to see your reach on Instagram, you need a business Instagram account. Click on the post you want to analyze and then click “View Insights” under the photo.

Fortunately, Instagram still has best practices for maximizing reach organically. We’ll start with Instagram basics to lay some marketing groundwork and work our way to reach-increasing tactics. You’ll need a solid organic strategy in place in order to receive engagement and consistently grow your reach. Use these seven tactics to get started.

1. Know Your Branding

Checking a restaurant’s Instagram before deciding where to eat is becoming second nature to Millennials. They’ll probably already know what they’re ordering before they get to the restaurant too.

To impress these Millennials, you’ll need a good Instagram aesthetic, or “theme.” This involves consistent branding, style, and voice—whether it’s an in-feed post, Story, caption, or comment.

There are a few ways you can nail this, but the most important part is understanding your own brand. If you understand your restaurant’s branding, it will reflect in your posts.

Tactic #4 will go into detail about how to create a cohesive Instagram theme.

Dropping phone into food while trying to snap photo for Instagram

2. Post Consistently

Be consistent in time and frequency of posting. Your followers will start to expect your posts and even look out for them! It’s best to post daily if you can. One way restaurants can achieve this is by posting daily specials.

Also, find the optimal time to post, then be consistent. Start by thinking about when your customers are getting hungry. This may be an hour before your restaurant’s typical peak times.

If needed, you can test different posting times to find which will bring the most reach. You can click “View Insights” under your photo to find the photo’s reach and then compare your results for different times.

3. Engage Back With Those Who Engage With Your Restaurant on Instagram

According to the Maru/Matchbox Retail Vision Study, 69% of Millennials take a photo of their food before they’re about to eat. It’s no secret that many of those photos will wind up on Instagram.

That said, if someone posts a photo at your restaurant and tags your restaurant’s Instagram, be sure to engage with that post. You could even ask to repost it on your account if it fits into your feed’s theme. The same goes for Instagram Stories since you can now share Stories that you’re mentioned in.

Engaging with customer photos is another great touchpoint beyond table service. Once customers notice that you’re engaging back or even reposting their content, they’ll be more motivated to share food photos and tag your restaurant. #foodie

4. Get Creative With Your Instagram Theme

Don’t limit yourself to professional photos of your food. Those will get stale (no pun intended). Instead, fill your feed with drool-worthy food photos, social events, employees, and more.

To start, choose three to five categories of posts to rotate through. For example, a trendy restaurant with a cocktail bar may rotate photos of appetizer close-ups, cocktails, social events, and interior photos. Knowing this will help you plan which content you need to capture in advance.

Next, pick your Instagram feed’s aesthetic or tone. Will it be dark and moody? Bright and colorful? Monochromatic? Once you’ve decided this, stick with it and keep that in mind when taking or curating photos.

Pro Tip: Don’t post blindly. Use any free Instagram planner like UNUM to plan out your feed. Rotate through your photo categories to ensure no two are next to each other. This will keep your content fresh and varied but still consistent.

You can read more about getting the best photos for social media here.

5. Reach Out to Local Food Bloggers

The increased exposure from influencer marketing can make a big impact on your business. Once you have an understanding of who you want to reach, find local food bloggers with a similar following.

Many food bloggers with a smaller following (under 15k) will be willing to exchange an Instagram post and Story for a meal on the house. For food bloggers with a large following, try offering them a high-value gift card in exchange for their time and discuss the possibility of a giveaway.

Giveaways are often beneficial for both the influencer and restaurant in terms of brand awareness and follower growth. Make sure not to skimp out on the giveaway prize, and always keep giveaways fresh and unique.

For example, giving away a gift card every time will get boring and won’t garner much excitement over time. Try giving away a romantic dinner for two in February and free cocktails for a group of friends in March. You’ll reach different audiences this way.

6. Use Instagram’s Video Features

According to Hubspot’s study on content trends globally, video content from brands is preferred by consumers. Instagram has three options for sharing video: Stories, IGTV, and an in-feed video post.

First, use Stories to share videos that are on-the-whim and unedited. Make sure to tag locations, use hashtags, and tag accounts for maximum reach. When you tag other accounts, they have the ability to “mention” your Story in their Story. Essentially, it’s an earned repost.

In addition to Stories, try IGTV for edited videos. You can share 15-second to 10-minute vertical videos, which are currently the preferred format on social. There are two features you should be using with IGTV:

  1. Show an IGTV preview in your Instagram feed by selecting this option when uploading.
  2. Link the IGTV in your Story so users can swipe up to watch the video.

Last, you can share videos in your feed like you would share any other image post!

7. Ensure Maximum Reach With Each Post

Finally, all your effort comes full circle in this step, where you want to ensure you’re getting maximum organic reach. The key to high reach on Instagram is using most of Instagram’s available features. The more reach you get, the higher the chance you’ll capture the right user’s attention at the right time.

There are two significant ways to maximize your post’s reach organically, including users who do not follow you: location tagging and hashtags.

Always tag a location to your photos so that your photo will show in the “Places”’ feed. For example, if you type in “New Orleans” in the Places search bar, you’ll see the top and recent photos that have tagged a location within New Orleans.

In addition to tagging locations, use all 30 hashtags allowed for each post. If you’re a locally owned restaurant, you should use around 20 local hashtags and the rest as branded hashtags or common food hashtags on Instagram.

A good hashtag strategy requires you to check and adjust every few months to make sure your photos are appearing in the hashtag feeds. Keep the hashtags that for which you’re appearing at the top, and replace the others with new hashtags. The goal is to appear somewhere in the top of the feed for all 30 hashtags; however, since this is always changing, you’ll always be checking and adjusting.

Bonus Step: Promote Your Posts

This is a bonus step because this is not an organic tactic. However, organic strategy pairs very well with paid strategy. If there’s a specific promotional post you want everyone to see, you should pay to promote it. This is a great way to get the word out about weekly specials, and we’ve seen it work well for our own clients.

To reiterate the importance of an organic strategy, you’ll stay top-of-mind for old customers and certainly reach new ones this way. Start building your organic strategy today! If you need assistance to make it happen, contact the team at Search Influence and utilize our social media expertise.


Phone drop


Wine glasses

Dining outside