Independent Restaurants Growing Followers and Fans Through Social Media Marketing

While independent restaurants don’t have quite the same funds they can allocate to digital marketing as the big chains, many are taking the reins and crushing it when it comes to social media marketing.

Let’s look at the latest marketing strategies and which brands are making a name for themselves.


With over 370 million Instagram posts tagged #food and over 40 million #drinks, it’s clear that food and beverage photos are some of the most common types of content on this popular social media site. The trick is to make your photos stand out from the crowd, and while we may not be able to compete with Starbucks and Chipotle, independent restaurants can create a buzz and develop an engaged channel.

Restaurant Hospitality reported on Tortazo, a new fast-casual Mexican concept in Chicago inspired by Mexico’s vibrant food, colors, and culture. Not only is their food Instagram worthy, but they’ve also got their followers engaged, an essential part of the social media marketing strategy. In addition to letting their followers pick the seasonal menu items, they’ve also chosen to highlight some of the local farmers.

You’ll find cocktails, Chef Rick Bayless, tortas, reviews, and menu posts on their Instagram site.

In addition to engaging your followers, a few other marketing strategies that work well with this social platform include using the right hashtags, asking customers for permission to use their photos, and getting into the competition game. You’ll also hit the jackpot by hunting down one of the many food bloggers who will gladly exchange postings about your restaurant for one of your delectable entrees. With followers in the tens of thousands, that kind of brand exposure is hard to beat.


With over four billion videos viewed every day, it’s clear that YouTube has made its way up the ladder of social media fame. YouTube is the second most visited website, losing first place to Google. The question is, with so many videos getting uploaded every day, how do you get your video viewed by potential and brand-loyal guests?

YouTube is the platform where you can tell your story, inspire others, and entertain. Guests love to take a look behind the scenes where chefs craft their signature dish. Some of the most popular channels use the platform as a teaching model for viewers looking to increase their cooking abilities.

Here you can see the chef from Fratelli’s Italian Restaurant making his signature Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo. Once you’ve created your video, be sure to embed it on your website and share the video on other social media sites.


TikTok is the fastest growing social media app with 1 billion videos viewed every day. About 50% of TikTok’s audience is under the age of 34, probably one of the many reasons it boasts the highest social media engagement rates per post. While TikTok is the new kid on the social media block, its rapid rise to fame was helped by the grueling year of shutdowns wielded by a raging pandemic.

TikTok is, in essence, short-form video posts that range from about 5-60 seconds in length. Like YouTube, restaurants turn to TikTok to share their back kitchen, where the magic happens, or introduce new food items.

Here’s Pinion Street Bakery showing how to make their red velvet cake

The Washington Post recently reported on the combined efforts of restaurants and TikTok influencers and how they helped each other through the pandemic. Like YouTube, TikTok food bloggers earn a meal, or cash, by posting about the restaurant.

When TikTok influencer Alex Hussein posted about his aunt and uncle’s restaurant, Mom’s Pizza, the video received 500,000 views. Hussein told The Washington Post that it’s important to get a person’s attention in the first few seconds. Viewers want to hear your story and what makes you unique, not just as a restaurant but as a person.

One of TikTok’s best attributes is that you don’t need many followers for your video to go viral. TikTok’s algorithm shows users videos with just a few dozen followers to millions. So when the kitchen manager at Liberty Hall Pizza, Brandon Murphy, started posting videos of himself making pizzas, he probably didn’t expect to go viral. Nevertheless, his first video showing people how to make pizza in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven currently has over 8 million views. Known as @PizzaManBran, Murphy has over 230,000 followers and 4.3 million likes.

Whether partnering with influencers, sharing behind-the-scenes clips, or taking photos of your latest gastronomical creations, social media marketing is no longer an option for restaurants; it’s a necessity.

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