November 19, 2020

Looking For More Millennial Diners? You Should Be, And You Should Start With Instagram

By Steve Roop

InstagramYou know them by name. They’ve been coming in like clockwork for years. They’ve been your restaurant’s base since the beginning, reliable, loyal, and always hungry for what you’re serving.

But where is your next wave of diners coming from? What happens when The Greatest Generation isn’t there for you anymore? Maybe you’ve already noticed a few less of them coming in then used to. It’s time to take a serious look at millennials and what will attract them to your restaurant—and keep them coming back.

Talking to the millennial generation is very different than what we’ve done historically to attract diners. With so many more media channels now than there were just 10 years ago, it might seem difficult to find the right one to help grow your restaurant’s revue and bring in new butts in seats. Fortunately, these new channels—and social media specifically—also have more targeting and data options than we’ve ever had, making finding the right person at the right time better than it’s ever been as well.

Often the focus of the social media world is squarely on Facebook with their 2.6 billion (with a “b”) followers, and with an audience that size it’s easy to see why. So it’s easy to forget that they also own Instagram and their 1 billion (more “b’s”) followers. If you own a restaurant or restaurant chain, however, Instagram’s “smaller” audience might be your best bet for attracting new diners.

Facebook Isn’t Necessarily Your Best Social Media Channel

Facebook owns several platforms besides their flagship social media behemoth, including Messenger, WhatsApp, Oculus, Giphy, and of course Instagram. And since almost no one uses one social media or messaging platform exclusively, Facebook is well positioned to deliver the right audience—across their wide portfolio of platforms—at the right time, with the right content to convert ad dollars into revenue for your business.

Facebook’s targeting options are the very best available to marketers, due in large part to how much we share about ourselves on these platforms. About to get married? Facebook knows. Love pizza? Facebook knows. Like sports news? Facebook knows, and more than that, Facebook knows where you’re most likely to engage, share, or click across their channels. For restaurants, that’s where Instagram comes in.

Your Next Generation of Diners Are Eating Up Instagram

InstagramInstagram was basically made for food, and has turned even the mildest of diners into Annie Leibowitz when it comes to eating out and sharing photos of their meals, thanks to a wide array of filters and photo options like carousels and boomerangs. Taking the time to create your own photos (preferably with a good food photographer) and build up a strong brand page and pretense on Instagram is the first step for most restaurants looking to get started in social media. Utilizing Facebook’s targeting options for Instagram, and a reasonable media budget, to find the right diners in your area is next. From there, your customers will start to do some of the work for you, spreading the word about the delicious looking (and tasting!) meal you prepared for them.

According to a recent study by Fundera 30% of millennial diners avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence, and 69% of them take and share photos of their food before eating it (aka free advertising for you). Being a 100% visual platform (and mobile, they’re doing it in the moment, while they’re sitting in your restaurant) means Instagram was basically designed for foodies to snap and share. Making sure your restaurant is “Instagrammable” is key to riding this wave of user-generated content, getting more eyeballs on your dishes, and more butts in seats.

Getting Started On Instagram

Do it for the Gram

Good lighting, visually exciting dining rooms, well-designed menus, and attention to detail all go a long way towards encouraging a diner to want to photograph and share elements of your restaurant. Because Instagram is primarily a mobile-only platform, you’ll need to download and use their app. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Create and convert your restaurant’s account into a business account if you haven’t already. This can be done in your account’s settings, and gives you much more control over your business presence, including the ability to create and run ads on Instagram.
  2. If your profile photo is your logo, and that logo has a bunch of small type in it, just use your business mark without any type. It’ll present much better filling up the profile icon space, and your restaurant’s name will show up next to it in user feeds anyhow.
  3. Make sure your profile settings (Settings > Privacy) allow for your restaurant to be tagged by others. This is key to encouraging diner engagement and reaching their audiences when they post photos of your dishes and dinning room.
  4. After you post that delicious looking dish your chef is super-proud of, make sure you reply to users that comment on it. You don’t have to reply to every comment, but show your audience you’re paying attention with some replies here and there. The more they’re talking about you, the more they’re thinking about you.
  5. Use Instagram Stories to share specials, new dishes, and other restaurant news a few times a week. Stories live for around 24 hours and then disappear (unless you save them to your profile). More importantly, they show up at the very top of a user’s main Instagram feed—valuable real estate when you’re looking for audience reach and awareness.

When diners share and engage with you and your dishes online, it’s an implied endorsement as valuable as a review. The diner is telling their friends they had a great meal and a strong experience at your establishment, and regardless of the generation, there still isn’t anything better for a restaurant than good word of mouth.


  • 30% of millennial diners avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.
  • 69% of millennial diners take and share photos of their food before eating it, free advertising for restaurants.
  • Diners sharing their experiences with their followers is implied endorsement and fantastic word of mouth.