Influencer Marketing for Restaurants: Your Recipe for Reaching the Modern Diner

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Looking to add a bit of spice to your restaurant marketing efforts? Then it’s time to 86 your old strategy and start turning and burning with restaurant influencers.

Getting started isn’t as daunting as it sounds. And by the time you’re done with this blog, you’ll have hungry customers watching you like they watch that sizzling plate of fajitas heading over to table 6. 

Let’s get into it. 

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What is a restaurant influencer?

A restaurant influencer is anyone who leverages their social media presence and online influence to promote and review restaurants, eateries, and dining experiences. These creators play a major role in shaping dining choices by providing relatable and relatable insights based on their own experiences. In essence, restaurant influencers bridge the gap between guests and restaurants, helping business reach a wider audience and attract customers eager to explore new culinary delights.

A man eating pasta while laughing representing restaurant influencers

Who can be a restaurant influencer?

A restaurant influencer doesn’t have to be an industry professional. They don’t even have to be connected to the industry at all, in fact.

Anyone with an appetite can be a successful restaurant influencer—the key is finding those who align with your target audience and can speak to those who would be most interested in trying your food. 

Here are a few good examples: 

Food bloggers

Food bloggers can be your culinary storytellers. They have a genuine passion for food, and the best ones know how to describe it in a way that leaves you drooling. Plus, their readers trust them for dining tips, making food bloggers the perfect accouterment to your restaurant marketing plan. 

Travel influencers

Travel influencers are always on the lookout to discover the next hidden gem and have a knack for introducing their followers to diverse dining experiences from around the world. And given the fact that 85% of adults say they have looked to travel influencers for recommendations, they make the perfect partners for restaurant owners hoping to make it onto the next travel itinerary. 

Photographers

You know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand bites.” Or something like that… Anyway, photographers are the true foodie artists, and they know how to capture a dish’s essence in a single frame. They understand that a beautifully presented plate can be a work of art, and their skills turn restaurant dishes into irresistible masterpieces that can spread quickly across social media platforms.

Chefs

Who knows food better than the chefs themselves? These creators have the ultimate culinary expertise and have plenty of sway with audiences who trust them for their insider knowledge. 

But keep in mind that the word “chef” can have a pretty broad meaning in this context. Even the at-home cook making dinner for the family can still have the credibility you need to drive more open menus at your restaurant. 

Mom and dad influencers

@trulynikki

If you’re looking for a Family Friendly Outing checkout Preslee’s for some good Southern Food and Kid Friendly Environment! #houstonfood #houstonfamilyfun #houstontx #texas #houstontexas #houstoneats #foodie #foodies #presleessouthernfoodeatery #preslees #presleeshouston

♬ Old Town Road – Lil Nas X

Speaking of at-home cooks, mom and dad influencers open up a super important niche for most restaurants—a family-friendly environment. Lean on these creators to showcase the menu options for kids and to let their followers know where they can go for fun for the whole family.

Vegan and health food influencers

Vegan and health food influencers understand the intricacies of plant-based diets, the importance of nutrient-rich ingredients, and the benefits of conscious eating. Their expertise makes them reliable sources for evaluating restaurant menus and identifying options that cater to specific dietary preferences or health-conscious diners.

But beyond restaurant reviews, these influencers can inspire their followers to make healthier and more sustainable dining choices, whether it’s choosing a vegan dish, opting for a salad, or exploring new superfoods.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Have a healthy restaurant that needs a good pump? Give athletes and fitness influencers a shot. Their focus on health-conscious dining, nutritional awareness, and commitment to balanced eating habits make them valuable resources for diners seeking both delicious and nutritious restaurant experiences.

Pet influencers

Believe it or not, pet influencers have their paw on the dining scene, too. They can promote pet-friendly restaurants and pet menus to make your restaurant a must for anyone who can’t go anywhere without their four-legged friends. 

Local foodies

No one knows a town’s restaurant scene better than the local foodies. They’re the ones who can tell you where to find the best pizza, the coziest cafes, and the hole-in-the-wall gems. Partner with them to attract locals and tourists alike to become the next culinary treasure in your town. 

Tech influencers

Tech influencers can explore the intersection of food and technology, from app-based food delivery services to high-tech kitchen gadgets. For example, a tech influencer might review a restaurant’s innovative QR code-based menu system. The content would showcase the seamless experience of browsing the menu and placing orders with a smartphone, highlighting how technology enhances the dining experience.

How to find creators for your restaurant influencer marketing program

Ready to start looking for influencers? Here are the best places to start. 

Search some hashtags.

Searching hashtags allows you to pinpoint influencers already engaging with topics closely related to your industry. When you find the content you like, be sure to check out the comments to see how audiences are responding to the posts. If there is plenty of engagement, you can assume people are paying attention to that creator’s content.

Here are some common hashtags related to the restaurant industry: 

  • #foodie
  • #foodporn
  • #cheflife
  • #farmtofork
  • #healthyeating
  • #localeats
  • #localflavors
  • #foodiedestinations

Leverage your existing customers. 

@sarahbelleelizabeth

My favorite nashville restaurants close walking distance to broadway/downtown as a Nashville resident/local! Enjoy & save for you next nashville trip #nashville #nashvilletn #nashvillefoodies

♬ original sound – sarahbelleelizabeth

Talk to your regulars about creating some content around your business if they are comfortable doing so. These folks already love you, and even if they don’t have a massive social media presence, the authenticity of their content will shine through. Plus, their endorsements give you the social proof you need to bring other like-minded customers in the door. 

Tap into your employees.

@_aspensmith

Words cant describe how much I love my job #fayetteville #restaurant #chef

♬ Outro – M83

Your employees know your restaurant as well as anyone. And if they love their job, their positive attitude will rub off on customers too. When you partner with your employees to create social media content, you’re tapping into behind-the-scenes content and “insider” knowledge that adds some depth to the story you’re trying to tell your customers. 

Check out location tags.

Location tags, also known as geotags or place tags, are digital markers that associate a specific geographical location with a piece of content, such as a social media post or photo. These tags typically include the name of a place, business, city, or geographic coordinates, and are a great way for restaurants to find creators in their area who might be willing and able to partner with them. 

Google some keywords.

“Googling it” might seem like an obvious strategy, but you can take it a step further than typing in something like “best restaurant influencers in X city.” That’s a decent strategy, too, but you can actually ask Google to only show you content that has appeared on a social media platform.

Here’s how it would work for Instagram:

Type site:instagram.com into Google, then enter some keywords related to the restaurant industry. 

For example:

Site: facebook.com [foodies] AND [restaurants] AND [boston]

You can even narrow it down to a specific date range:

Site: facebook.com [foodies] AND [restaurants] AND [boston] after:2022-11-01 before:2022-11-30

Use GRIN’s Creator Discovery Suite.

There are a million ways you can find creators manually. But if you need some help streamlining your efforts, GRIN’s Creator Discovery Suite is your ultimate solution.  

With the Creator Discovery Suite, you have five powerful tools at your fingertips at all times:

  • Creator Search: GRIN has an extensive database of creators you can search by follower count, engagement rate, location, and other key metrics. 
  • GRIN Web Extension: The GRIN Web Extension enables you to view creator metrics in real-time while you’re browsing social media natively. 
  • Social Listening: GRIN’s Social Listening Tool helps you eavesdrop on conversations about your brand so you can easily identify people singing your praises online. 
  • Landing Pages: With customizable Landing Pages, you can set up a place on your homepage or social media bio where fans can apply to work with you directly. 
  • Curated Lists: If that still sounds like too much, you can just leave the prospecting to us. Our discovery team will deliver you a fresh list of brand-aligned creators every two weeks, so you always have warm leads to reach out to. 

Tips and best practices for working with restaurant influencers

Think local.

@yumyum_adventures

Minnesota places you should try next part 4 📍bb.q Chicken St. Paul 1328 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105 Part 1: @yumyum_adventures Part 2: @yumyum_adventures Part 3: @yumyum_adventures #minnesota #onlyinminnesota #localeats #foodie #placestoeat #koreanfriedchicken #koreanfoods #friedchicken #asianfoods Thank you bb.q Chicken St. Paul for the collaboration! Foods were compensated but the opinions are my own.

♬ ETA – NewJeans

If you want to be successful with restaurant influencers, you have to start with the hometown heroes. Local influencers know what’s up in town and already have a loyal following in your vicinity. Oftentimes, these creators are seen as trusted voices within the community, which adds weight to their recommendations and gives your brand’s reputation a boost.

Create a hashtag. 

We talked about how you can search some hashtags to find restaurant influencers to work with. But you might as well create your own, too. This encourages people to share their experiences online and makes it easy to track any user-generated content out there floating around about your brand. You can use this strategy to find creators to work with, or you can grab the UGC and repurpose it across other marketing channels. Just make sure you have the necessary content rights!

Share your story.

People want to hear the story behind the food. If you’re the owner of a restaurant, let people know where you came from and why you got into the business. Tell them what you’re passionate about and what you hope they’ll take away from the dining experience.

You can highlight your employees as well. From the hostess at the front stand to the dishwasher in the back-of-house, everyone has a story to tell. And if you give them a chance, they can help humanize your restaurant and help build a connection with your customers.  

Create a ‘secret’ menu item.

Create a secret menu exclusively for influencers and their followers. Encourage influencers to share the secret code or dish details on social media.

This strategy offers diners a sense of exclusivity as the menu items are only for people who are “in the know”—not casual fans. It’s also a good way to track the success of your creator content. If people keep coming in asking for the “secret” menu item, you can bet that your creator is doing their job. 

Host a guest chef. 

Collaborate with influencers to host special pop-up events or guest chef nights, where they curate a unique menu or dish for your restaurant for a limited time. These special guests don’t even have to be “chefs” by trade. Anyone well-known in your community and passionate about food can be a good partner to host an event and get people through the door. 

Collaborate with local artists.

We think it’s safe to say that great food is art—so why not partner with local artists? Turn your restaurant into a gallery showcasing work from all the talented people in your area. Invite the artists to come in and mingle with the guests for a “gallery night” that will help expand your customer base and help customers view your restaurant in a new light. 

Partner for a cause.

Highlight your restaurant’s involvement in the local community or charitable initiatives. Invite influencers to participate in charity events or fundraisers, showcasing your commitment to social responsibility. You could also donate a percentage of your proceeds to a cause close to the hearts of both you and your influencer, helping build a stronger connection that can lead to a long, fruitful partnership. 

Hold a contest. 

Collaborate with influencers to host giveaways and contests on their social media platforms, encouraging their followers to participate for a chance to win a restaurant experience. This could include themed photo contests like “best food selfie” or “most creative food art,” earning you some valuable UGC and starting a conversation about your restaurant online. 

Key takeaway: Embrace restaurant influencers to add flavor and authenticity to your marketing strategy. 

Restaurant influencers are the key to driving foot traffic in today’s social media environment. When getting started with your strategy, remember to think local. And don’t ignore your regular customers who might not have the following of a traditional “influencer.” In reality, everyone who loves your food can be valuable to your influencer marketing strategy—you’ve just got to empower them to share the love!

Updated: March 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few tips to consider when you’re first trying to get influencers to promote your restaurant:

  1. Identify local foodies.
  2. Engage with them on social media.
  3. Send a personalized invitation to come to your restaurant.
  4. Offer a memorable dining experience.
  5. Discuss what it would take to collaborate with them.
  6. Negotiate terms.
  7. Show your appreciation!

Influencers work with restaurants by visiting their establishment and trying their food. They share that experience with their online audience, encouraging them to come in and try it for themselves. They can also get more involved by engaging in experiential marketing campaigns with the restaurant to increase foot traffic and build excitement. 

Sometimes an influencer will promote a restaurant just because they love it so much. But usually, influencers charge for promotions. 

There are a few common payment methods:

  • Free meals or a unique dining experience: A complimentary meal in exchange for content
  • Flat fees: A fixed payment restaurants offer an influencer in exchange for a post
  • Commission: A percentage of sales generated from a promotion
  • Donations to charity: A restaurant and influencer agree to an event specifically for charity

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Written by Quinn Schwartz

Quinn studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and now lives in Portland, Oregon. He’s particularly interested in storytelling in digital marketing and cost-effective creator strategies for smaller brands. When he’s not writing, you can find him at a concert, dog park, or debating whether or not to go on a run.

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© Grin Technologies Inc. 2024. All rights reserved.

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