How to Create Compelling Visuals for Your Restaurant’s Instagram Account

By Denise Langenegger, Instasize

How do you decide to eat at a restaurant you’ve never tried before? Social media word of mouth is a powerful tool that restaurants and sports bars can use to give potential customers a taste of a restaurant’s ambiance before they visit.

Instagram in particular, with its focus on visuals and large community is a boon for marketers in nearly all industries. 60% of Instagram’s two million monthly active users discover new products through the platform, and 80% of them follow at least one business on the platform as well. Here’s how to be a part of that statistic and reel in the social media savvy via Instagram. 

Accentuate with Angles 

Don’t limit yourself to one angle when composing food photos. To highlight your restaurant on Instagram, you also need to take into consideration what makes each individual dish worth ordering. Different kinds of food work better when viewed from different angles—what looks attractive or not can end up being a matter of perspective!

For example: salads and pizzas lend themselves well to being viewed from the top to showcase the variety of ingredients present, which often isn’t visible from the side, while other dishes can be shot at a closer angle. 

Delight with Depth of Field 

Depth of field in photography refers to the distance within a photograph that appears sharp and clear. In this case, using a shallow depth of field for food and product photos can create especially striking visuals that make the user hone in on one aspect of your presentation. In a shallow depth of field, one part of the shot is usually isolated and thrown into sharp focus while the rest of the background (or sometimes even foreground!) appears blurry.

Use it to add a little extra emphasis to a single piece of food or drink in a shot with multiple elements. Check out how famous French bakery Ladurée does it:

To do this with your mobile phone, you can specify what you want to keep in focus by tapping on that area of the screen. Hold the press for a few seconds and it should keep that focus locked, saving you the stress of losing that particular shot when readjusting the positioning and composition of your image. 

Brand Your Backgrounds 

While variety is the spice of life, and taking photos with different backgrounds keeps your brand’s posts refreshing, it’s good to keep one theme underneath it all. Think about your restaurant’s brand identity and target audience and tailor it to that—do you manage a relaxed, homey restaurant that serves comfort food with a twist? Or do your restaurant’s interiors cater to the hip, cool, and young of the social media generation?

Picking a theme or aesthetic for your restaurant’s online presence and sticking with it will attract followers interested in that specific look—and can drive up more engagement as they will be more likely to like and comment on these photos.  

Fast food chain Arby’s, for example, leverages video games and pop culture for their background and product shots, using materials found in their restaurant to pay tribute to what’s hot in these spheres. ChaCha Matcha, on the other hand, uses pale pastel pinks and greens for a retro tropical vibe, attracting those seeking soothing colors and an interesting place to take Instagram photos of their own.

 Don’t have enough materials on hand for photo staging? Add borders and adjust image tones using a mobile photo editing app to keep the look consistent. 

Interact with Instagram’s Interface

If you want to take your restaurant’s visual branding on Instagram a step further, you can use the app’s own interface layout to your advantage and plan posts around it. Despite users mainly engaging with Instagram by scrolling through their main feed, there will always be individuals that decide to click on your username and view your profile. Be ready for them! Once they’re there, you can draw their attention on you—and keep it there—by utilizing the grid view to coordinate themed images into sets.

While this takes more time and preparation to get right than just plain posting, brands that succeed in committing to this strategy shine. Fast food chain Taco Bell is one of them, and their 1.2 million followers can attest to the effectiveness of their online branding: visuals that pop in sets of three photographs in the profile grid, with each set composed and edited differently but still sticking to a unified, fun atmosphere.

Perfect the Profile

If there’s one essential step to keep in mind when promoting your restaurant on Instagram, it’s that you should never neglect optimizing your social media profile. When all is said and done, elaborate visuals won’t matter much if prospective customers don’t know where to go or where they can find more information about your brand. Here are a few quick tips for a complete social media profile:

  1. Use a high quality company logo as your profile image. This fosters recognition when posts are visible on user feeds and gives your account credibility.

  2. Create a branded hashtag and feature it in your profile description. Branded hashtags can be as simple as your restaurant’s name, or you can create something completely new with a slogan or phrase. What matters is that users who go to your restaurant know how to tag your photos so that their content can be visible to you—making it easier to respond and repost Instagram photos from happy diners.

  3. Don’t forget to link your official website. Encourage users to learn more about you by linking your website on your profile. This also comes in handy when you’re running contests or promotions—direct contestants to your website link on your profile in the announcement photos you post.

Caption for Clicks

A photo is worth a thousand words, but eventually users will want to learn more nitty-gritty details about the dining experience your brand offers. Every so often, include a call-to-action phrase in your Instagram caption to direct curious users to your official website when you post something especially interesting.

Have a new menu item you’re eager for diners to try? Talk more about it in the caption and tell users to visit your website to learn more. Holding a special promotion or sale? You can switch out the main website link on your profile temporarily to a page dedicated to it. You can even edit your photos themselves or share poster graphics with this kind of text overlaid on top. Just remember not to do this for every single photo you upload—else your feed ends up looking more like an unending sales pitch than a place to scroll through great photos.

The good news is that with advances in mobile phone technology, you don’t need expensive camera and lens sets to create compelling brand visuals for your restaurant. Finding a mobile editing app that can help you capture scenes as you want to see them is a good investment. Instasize can help you build your restaurant’s visual identity through its editing tools—adjust colors and filters, add borders of varying styles, and more. Download it for iOS or Android.