Influencer Marketing for Restaurants: An Expert’s Guide to Boosting Your Bookings

As a restaurant owner, you’ll know just how powerful word-of-mouth can be. All it takes is one negative review or piece of criticism, and instantly, potential might customers turn away from your business and toward a competitor. After all, when it comes to choosing where to eat, we tend to prioritise the opinions and experiences of others over most other factors – it’s no wonder influencers have become such a powerful tool for restaurants in boosting their bookings. 

At one point or another, we’ve all seen some food blogger or influencer’s content plastered across our social media pages. There’s likely a good chance that many of us have considered visiting the place they’ve been raving about. 

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of influencer marketing itself, with how social media has changed and evolved over the last decade, it would be more shocking to have not heard about influencers. After all, we see them all the time, sometimes without even knowing. Whether they’re plastered across our Instagram feeds, featuring on our favourite foodie blogs and podcasts, or heading up some of our favourite programmes, these days, Influencers are everywhere.

Essentially, influencer marketing refers to when brands collaborate with these highly followed individuals as a way of promoting their products or services. When an influencer promotes your brand, it acts as a stamp of approval for their followers. This endorsement helps to build awareness, interest, and trust in your brand, which if done correctly, can play a significant role in boosting your exposure, engagement, traffic, and of course, ROI.

How Does the Technique Work?

Influencer marketing is essentially a two-way street. As a restaurant, you’re not going to invite someone to eat for free in return for nothing (friends and family excluded, of course). On the other hand, there’s very little incentive for an influencer to take the time to promote your restaurant if they’re getting nothing from it besides a quick update of where they are to their followers. 

The best approach to influencer marketing for a restaurant is to reach out to influencers with a similar audience to those you want to target. Invite them for a complimentary dining experience in return for them creating content promoting your brand on social media. What exactly this content consists of, however, can be discussed between the two of you.

Different Types of Influencers

It would be understandable to assume that the bigger the influencer, the greater the impact it will have on your restaurant’s footfall, but this isn’t always the case. Smaller creators local to your restaurant can often prove to be more effective. When it comes to identifying influencers to collaborate with, these are your options:

  • Nano Influencers: These content creators host between 1k and 10k followers, typically with the highest engagement rates of most influencers.
  • Micro-Influencers: With an audience of between 10k and 100k, these accounts tend to focus on a single niche – be that fashion, food, or something more unique.
  • Macro Influencers: With a following of between 100k and 1million, the low engagement of these influencers is compensated by their significant reach. Macro Influencers do tend to move away from focusing on a single niche, however, which is important to keep in mind if you’re just looking to target food-related accounts.
  • Mega Influencers: With more than one million followers, these creators are essentially the celebrities of the influencer world. We’re talking TV appearances, brand deals and hundreds of thousands of likes per post.

How Can I Collaborate with an Influencer?

The first step to running a successful influencer marketing campaign begins with finding the ideal content creator to partner with. The importance of this cannot be overstated. To begin, look at your existing followers. Those who are already familiar with, and perhaps already like your brand may be far more willing to collaborate with you.

Look for those with a considerable number of followers, but arguably more importantly, prioritise those with a high engagement rate. This shows that their audience will see the post, interact with it, and have a far greater likelihood of generating interest in your brand itself.

How to Measure the Success of Your Influencer Marketing Campaign

To determin if influencer marketing has been a success for your restaurant, you need to be tracking the performance of your campaigns. Fortunately, the direct result of this can be tracked relatively easily. Influencers can be provided with unique booking links and discount codes to incorporate into their content. When a customer books through this link, or uses the unique code, you can determine the ROI of the collaboration.

What typically cannot be determined, however, is the indirect benefits of an influencer marketing campaign. Say you open Instagram and see an influencer promoting a beautiful restaurant relatively close to you. It looks great, so you say to yourself that you’ll visit in a couple of months. By then, however, the unique code shared by the influencer may no longer be valid, but the customer's decision to visit the restaurant still partly results from the influencer collaboration.