How To Grow Your Restaurant’s Online Presence Using Influencer Marketing

Food bloggers and influencers are modern-day critics that can wield enough persuasive power to make or break a hospitality business. Getting the right recommendation from an established influencer can propel your business into online stardom, following a rush of foot traffic from their followers who simply have to check out the latest hotspot in town. Any restaurant or F&B business can leverage this form of marketing to their benefit, it just requires a little know-how in the realm of digital networking. Any person with a social media account can be considered an influencer, so where should you begin? 

Find Bloggers in Your Niche

If you’re trying to grow a restaurant that specialises in pan-seared steak, it wouldn’t make much sense to ask a vegan blogger to come and review your food (unless your goal is provocation – which we really don’t advise!). One of the most fundamental principles underpinning any business is to understand your customers; that way you tailor your offering around their needs. You need to consider your ideal audience, which influencers and bloggers appeal to that audience, and who would be the most appropriate person to represent your brand. Influencers typically carve out a specific niche that they operate within, so be careful when aligning their brand with yours as you may find some of their qualities are transferred across when they promote your restaurant. For example, let’s imagine an online reviewer who exclusively reviews low-priced fast food restaurants. If you were trying to create a luxury restaurant brand, it could be damaging to have that person review your restaurant due to the confusion it would cause among your intended audience. They may well think that it’s another fast food outlet and avoid bringing their spouse for their upcoming anniversary. And if you don’t have a niche, get one; appealing to everyone appeals to no one. 

Micro vs. Macro Influencers

We’ve covered influencer segmentation in regards to which restaurant type they’re best suited to promoting. Another key difference between influencers is how many people they are able to influence. In other words, how many followers do they have? The bigger the following, the more money you’ll usually have to fork out due to the larger number of people their posts have the potential of reaching. However, there are influencers who buy fake followers (bot accounts with no real person behind them) in order to appear to have a greater online presence so they can demand a higher premium for promotional services. This blog has done a great job of teaching you how to spot fake followers to avoid getting scammed. 

After you’ve filtered through your list of influencers and are left with only those who have legitimate followers, you must then consider 1) size of influencer following, and 2) geography.  As previously mentioned, the size of an influencer’s following is going to impact the price of a promotion, so if you’re a small or relatively new restaurant, it may be best to choose a micro-influence with a modest following (under 10,000) who lives or works close by. This way you also limit the cost for their travel, which they’ll typically charge for. We recommend that you get them into the restaurant as you can pay any influencer for a few social media posts about your business, but without a photo of them actually being on-site with your food it dilutes its credibility as an actual endorsement. A macro-influencer, on the other hand, is typically defined as someone with anywhere between tens of thousands to millions of followers, and is better suited for a larger sized restaurant chains that can afford their online recommendation.  

I Don’t Have Money for Expensive Influencers

If you don’t have anything in the financial budget for influencer marketing, there are other non-monetary incentives that you can offer! Many micro-influencers are just regular people with normal jobs who have built an online following and would be happy to accept a free meal in exchange for a post on their social media channels. If, however, budgets are really tight you can always put a cap on how much they can spend (e.g. offer a gift voucher of $100). This method will typically only work with micro-influencers.

How to Contact Them

If you’re too busy running your restaurant and want to avoid having to find the influencers yourself, you can simply Google a phrase like “influencer agencies” and find companies who can manage the entire process for you. However, If you’d prefer to do it yourself and save on fees, just log in to your restaurant’s social media accounts and begin searching for relevant influencers using hashtags related to your business. Once you’ve come across an appropriate influencer, simply send them a short message asking if they’d be interested in promoting your business for a free meal. Something like: 

“Hi [name], I’m the manager here at [restaurant name]. We’re looking to grow our customer base and and we feel your followers are the perfect fit for our brand. Would you be interested in coming in for a free meal in exchange for a tagged post?”

Alternatively, you can create a contact form for your website so that influencers can come to you! Be sure to include a stipulation of guidelines (i.e. what you’re looking for) and avoid hurt feelings in rejection emails by offering them a percentage off their next meal: 

“Thank you for applying to collaborate with our restaurant. While we love your blog/Facebook/Instagram page, we’re currently inundated with requests for free meals and unable to take on any partnerships without at least 10,000 followers. We are grateful that you’ve taken to the time to send us a message so we’d like to offer you a 10 percent discount on your next meal at our restaurant.”

This way, they might even post about your restaurant simply for the gesture of good will!.