Social media influencers grow large followings by posting photos or short videos that interest a highly engaged audience that trusts their knowledge and authenticity. Since restaurant-enthusiasts make it a game to discover the newest, best, most unique or off-the-beaten-track eatery whenever they travel, an influencer has some pull.

Who Follows Restaurant Influencers?

You can still snap open a regional publication to find the best places to dine or watch a television episode of a restaurant being overhauled. But there are more efficient and genuine ways to find a restaurant recommendation. Word-of-mouth is as important as ever in the industry, based on these takeaways from a recent industry report by SevenRooms.com, a restaurant reservation system company.

  • Over half of Americans rely on dining out recommendations based on a friend’s and family member’s exceptional experience at a restaurant.
  • 35 percent of Americans have eaten at a restaurant they spotted on social media.
  • Millennials are twice as likely as the 55-plus age group to order a specific dish if an influencer posted about it.
  • Millennials are five times more likely than the older group to follow social media influencers to find new restaurants.

This is all great news for restaurants. If you’re a restaurant operator, should you find an influencer to help drive traffic to your place via their referrals? How do you begin?

An Appetite for Influencers

With a quick 10 words in an Instagram post or YouTube video, an influencer could pack your house for a night. If you want to enter the world of social media influencer marketing for restaurants, here are four essential questions to consider:

  • What’s your restaurant’s personality? Does your brand require demonstrations that would translate well in a YouTube video? Or would a photo on Instagram of the finished dish compel diners to come in? Knowing this about your establishment will narrow down the platform and influencer that’s best for your restaurant.
  • What’s your restaurant’s goal? Do you want to grow by attracting new customers of a certain demographic? Do you want to attract more new customers who walk in without a reservation? Start with one solid goal.
  • Who’s your ideal customer? What type of customer would or already does love your restaurant? Is it a Generation-Z college student who follows trendy food influencers or the business lunch crowd who comes into your place on a weekly basis? Knowing this helps you narrow down your influencer choices because you naturally want to align with an influencer who speaks to your ideal customer.
  • Who are some local influencers? You aren’t limited to restaurant influencers when you’re marketing an eatery. There are plenty of lifestyle influencers of all ages that include restaurants in their posts and videos. You can either contact them directly or work with an agency that handles influencers to research the best fit. Don’t confuse food influencers (like Jaime Oliver or David Change, for example) with restaurant or lifestyle influencers. Start researching an Instagram account for your city, for example, @ChicagoFoodAuthority, @NewYorkFoodies or @LosAngelesFoodScene. Be sure to study an influencer’s marketing data for targeted details to see if they’re right for your needs.

Successful Influencer Examples

We’ve found a few examples of how an influencer’s simple post can bump a restaurant’s traffic, identify a signature item and increase consumer awareness:

  • Springbone: Influencer ny.foodie (87.3K Instagram followers) posted a single photo of a cup of strawberry rhubarb soft serve ice cream on their Instagram page with a few words of praise.
  • Alfred’s Coffee: Influencer laurenelizabeth (1M Instagram followers) loves the memorable, famous and highly usable tagline for Alfred’s Coffee. “But First, Coffee,” seems to turn up on Instagram all the time from influencers and non-influencers.
  • Taiyaki NYC: Influencer eatmenyc (71.5K Instagram followers) posted a vivid, memorable photo of the eatery’s unicorn-themed ice cream cone.

Food and restaurants offer influencers plenty of colorful and promotable visual content. Once your campaign with an influencer is live, track the results to make sure you’re getting the best return on investment.

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