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What can food influencers do for my restaurant?

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

This week we were fortunate enough to catch up with Alex Jewell, the social media influencer behind the Instagram page @bestfoodalex. Alex captures the best menu items from trending and classic eateries all around the Chicago area.

Social media is a key facet of any restaurant’s overall marketing strategy, and with food influencers becoming more prominent, they can provide an interesting way in promoting a restaurant. However, restaurant owners need to do a little more research on an influencer beyond simply how many followers they have.

What else matters besides followers?

While it makes perfect sense to look at how many followers an Instagrammer has, and use that number to determine how much value I will get, it’s actually not correct.

One issue is how did they get those followers? According to Alex, if an influencer focuses too much on the number of followers they have but can’t tell you how they got them, that’s a red flag. Believe it or not, followers can be bought, and if an influencer you have been following has a sudden, sharp spike in their number of followers, they may have paid for them.

Instead, look at the likes and comments in their posts. Again, a high number of likes alone doesn’t signal high engagement. If they have few comments but tons of likes, something might be off. Longer comments and emojis are good indicators of an influencer creating truly engaging content.

Alex adds that if you see people tagging their friends in the comments, that is a sure-fire sign that an influencer’s followers are consistently engaging with their content. Higher engagement leads to higher chances their followers will pay your restaurant a visit.

How do I determine ROI?

Firstly, it is very hard to convincingly prove a tangible ROI of an influencer’s services. Even so, the best way to achieve a positive result is to determine your strategy before you even hire an influencer.

Ask yourself, what are my restaurant’s goals

To announce our grand opening? Announce a remodel? Are we coming out with new menu items? It could even be as simple as needing to get the word out that your establishment exists.

The goals and strategy you put in place at the outset will dictate which influencer you choose, how you work with them, and ultimately your level of satisfaction with their work, says Alex.

How do I find the right influencer?

Above all, you want to work with someone that genuinely likes your food, drinks, coffee, pastries, or whatever it is you sell. Their enthusiasm will be apparent in their content, as will any false advertising.

A good place to start would be to check on your own social media to see who is actively interacting with your content. Maybe they have a good following themselves that have a genuine connection. The same can be said for any marketing

you do, who is responding and active?

Another could be to reach out to a few local influencers and hosting a special event for them in your restaurant. New menu items or an exclusive experience will definitely provoke a reaction, gather their thoughts and maybe see what kind of content comes from it.

Finally, there are agencies with stables of influencers ready to promote your brand to their followers. If you have the budget, it can be an efficient way to find an influencer best suited to your needs. Alex mentioned researching an agency well, as some have been known to pay for engagement to make campaigns look better than their organic performance.

When in doubt, remember what your restaurant’s goals are - maybe they don’t even require an influencer’s services. And remember that the number of followers isn’t everything! Below are a few other key statistics to keep in mind:

  • 71% of people said they are likely to make a purchase due to a social media referral.

  • 45% of Instagram users are 25-34 years old. In 2012 it was 33%. Instagram is a platform best suited to reach Millennials and older Gen Zers.

  • 41% of influencer accounts in the US are “authentic,” their followers are real people and without large quantities of bot accounts.

Want to put some excitement for your restaurant? Here are 12 interesting restaurants to inspire your dining experience.


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