Social media has never been more important for restaurants.

From Facebook reviews to foodie images on Instagram – consumers are increasingly making dining-related decisions based on what they see online. A recent survey by MGH found that 45% of US diners have tried a restaurant because of its posts on social.

Social media can also play a huge part in the customer service of restaurants, too, with platforms like Twitter helping to build and maintain customer relationships.

So, which restaurants are killing it on social? Here’s a pick of some of our favourite examples.

Sketch

While restaurants used to focus solely on the in-person dining experience, many now care just as much about how that experience might be portrayed on social media. This is largely due to the popularity of people sharing food or restaurant-related images on Instagram – both every-day diners as well as bloggers and influencers.

Consequently, many restaurants are now actively trying to become ‘Instagram friendly’, encouraging users to take and share photos of carefully-crafted food and décor.

London-based restaurant Sketch is one of the most prominent examples of this. It is actually comprised of four individual restaurants – each with a unique and quirky design.

Interestingly, though, one of the most-shared images from Sketch comes from the bathroom, which is purposely designed to encourage visitors to take a ‘mirror selfie’. Each toilet is inside an individual pod in the shape of an egg, which sits below a disco-style ceiling.

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Naturally, Sketch’s toilets have generated tens of thousands of very similar-looking selfies. So, in order to sustain and boost interest, the restaurant often gives itself a seasonal makeover, this year decking out the entire place with flowers to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show.

With installations from top florists to freshen things up, Sketch even ensures that going to the toilet becomes an event in its own right.

Social Media Best Practice Guide – from advertising to platform selection and strategy

Chipotle

It’s been a tumultuous few years for Chipotle, largely due to high-profile food-safety issues knocking consumer confidence. However, the US restaurant chain has made a big comeback of late, announcing digital sales growth of 88% and revenue growth of 14.6% to $1.4bn for Q3 2019.

Alongside heavy investment in product and technology, Chipotle’s social media strategy has also contributed to its renewed success, part of which has been a focus on the relatively new social app, TikTok.

Interestingly, Chipotle is the only major restaurant chain with an official TikTok account. The app’s similarity to the now-defunct Vine – and the steadfast popularity of Facebook and Instagram – has meant that many other brands are still reluctant to invest. However, the app is increasingly growing thanks to the quirky and unique style of content found on the platform, and the increasing interest from young users.

According to ComScore, TikTok’s US unique visitors stood at 14.3 million in March of this year, and the majority of overall users are between 18 and 34.

Chipotle’s gamble with TikTok has paid off. Its first challenge, #ChipotleLidFlip, generated over 240 million views on the platform. Its second, #GuacDance, was even more successful with 430 million video starts in six days.

By creating fun and unique content on TikTok, Chipotle has once again become relevant to younger consumers, succeeding in engaging them in this new and growing social channel.

Nando’s

Going for a ‘cheeky Nandos’ might be part of British culture, however, Nando’s doesn’t take its popularity in the UK for granted. The restaurant chain continuously uses social media to reach and engage its dedicated and diverse customer-base, most recently turning its attention to video.

This year it has launched ‘Booth Truths’ – an ad series designed to “explore topics and themes such as loneliness, entrepreneurship, identity, and everything in between, with some of the UKs best up-and-coming talent.”

Featuring celebrities such as rapper AJ Tracey and comedian Asim Chaudhry, the series is obviously designed to appeal to a young audience. The content itself marks a change in tone for Nando’s, which is typically known for its focus on light-hearted topics.

By delving into more serious issues such as mental health and careers, it is aiming to engage an audience on a deeper level, as well as position itself as a brand that can positively contribute to the growing conversation about these issues (and help to do social good).

Leon

In the past, Leon has successfully invested in social media to generate reach, specifically partnering with influencers such as the Body Coach.

In more recent times, the best of its social media strategy seems to stem from Twitter, which – alongside announcements and general marketing – it uses to deal with enquiries and foster relationships with customers.

Leon does this by replying to the majority of its mentions on Twitter, both good and bad. This strategy ensures that customers feel heard, as well as championed when they’re recognised for saying something complimentary.

Leon is also famous for going that little bit extra with its customers (and passers-by). This recent tweet relating to the extinction rebellion is a good example of its dedication to customer service – and a nice bit of timely PR.

The Other Naughty Piglet

Many small or local restaurants need consistent custom from people that live and work nearby in order to both survive and thrive. This is different to chain restaurants, which rely on the overall operations of a company.

Insta-fame might work for some, but paid and localised social media ads is another more straightforward strategy, and one that typically returns success.

One example that shows the power of localised advertising for restaurants is The Other Naughty Piglet – a European restaurant located inside a London theatre. Partnering with social agency Maade, it launched social ads across Facebook and Instagram to help generate clicks and reservations for its lunch-time trade. Bookings for this time of the day were dwindling in comparison to its more popular, evening sitting.

According to Maade, The Other Naughty Piglet’s social ad campaign resulted in several hundred more bookings per month, proving the power of local and targeted social ads for restaurants.