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5 Ways Restaurants Can Increase Engagement for Free on Social Media in 2021

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

We have now finished up what may have been one of the most chaotic years that the Food and Beverage industry has experienced. With this in mind we must think of new ways to engage with our consumers as we enter 2021, and why not utilise the free resources available to us? With our increasing use of social media and our ever widening national lockdown, we need to make sure we are in touch with our consumers. Below we will look at 5 ways in which we can increase our engagement with our consumers to ensure loyalty and appreciation.

Carry Out Community Interactions

We all appreciate it when a business is highly responsive to their consumers. You have a question and you send them a Facebook Message – no one wants to be waiting days for a response. Set yourself a schedule and dedicate at least 20 to 30 minutes every other day interacting on your media platforms. This can be accomplished by going through DMs and comments, understanding the feedback you are being given, and replying to remarks made. Regardless as to whether a consumer asked a question in the comments or just provided feedback - reply to them! With a simple emoji, thumbs up or a positive agreement, they know that you are reading their comments. Not only does this show you are listening, but helps to humanize the brand. Hotels such as Park Plaza are a wonderful example of this. Have a quick look at their Instagram or Facebook, any reviews or questions are promptly replied too.

Another key tip is to look up your competitors and follow their followers; they may never have heard of you, but they have now! Nowadays we live with our phones in our hands, consumers expect quick and direct responses. 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend that business to their friends and family.

Ask Questions And Be Social

Social Media engagement, pretty easy right? Post a few photos and reply to some comments – well it may not be that simple. We must remember the 80/20 rule of social media: Only 20% of your content should be promoting your brand, with 80% then dedicated to content that engages your audience. Use stories to run polls and ask questions. Don’t just highlight your product, show off everything related to it! As we discussed above, it’s the humanization of the brand which helps to engage the consumer. Do you have a Christmas competition between the staff, an employee of the month? Show us! Or maybe you are about to release a new menu, why not let those who will actually be purchasing your product help to come up with a name or dish? Users want to see the whole vibe of your operation and these moments can simply be caught on your smartphone.

Even if your restaurant is closed due to COVID take every opportunity to connect with your audience in their homes. You can post stories or videos on how the consumer can recreate a favourite dish or drink. This has become very popular with consumers who are trying to pick up cooking as a new skill or are simply craving one of your dishes! Who else joined in recreating Pret’s Chocolate Cookies when they released the recipe during Lockdown? We can personally say they were delicious. The simple message here is to seek a relationship with your consumers, it costs nothing but just requires a change in your current approach.

Coffee-Shop chain Pret a Manger shared recipe guides to teach you how to cook their iconic delights at home.

Use User Generated Content (UGC)

UGC is a great way to keep catalogue of material. It is easily accessed, you don’t have to do much to obtain it and best of all it is totally free! Users are giving you free promotional material whenever they tag your restaurant in their stories or feeds. Encourage users to use your hashtags with the possibility of having their content reposted on your page.

Consumers love having their own material being used with credit given, and it once again shows you are present in listening to their feedback. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic, compared to content created by a marketing team or brand. It opens a window into what a real life experience is at your restaurant, instead of one that may have been orchestrated.

Honest Burgers sharing User-Generated-Content on their Instagram profile @honestburgers.

Plan Competitions & Influencer Visits

Competitions are a great way to engage and get more followers. Some may look at this point as a waste of money, providing a free service for a few likes. But what if I told you that a successful social media competition can lead to the acquisition of 34% of your new customers. Most rules and guidelines require those taking part to; follow, like and tag a mate in the comments. This encourages the user to not only spread your name, but allows them to stumble upon more of your posts in the future. This is one of the most economical ways to appreciate your user’s loyalty, as it only costs you a meal or two.

Again for the same price of a meal you can invite an influencer to partake in a lunch or dinner, and document it while using your hashtags and handles. The local influencer will then post it on their own feeds, sharing it to a whole new audience who are local and may too become loyal to your brand. Try offering your most “instagramable” or photogenic dish or drink in order to draw attention to the product.

An influencer visit to Bella Italia, raking in high engagement.

Post Smart

Think about what dining time your business is booming or lacking. If you’re having trouble getting dinner reservations post at 5pm, prime time for when users are on their way home hungry or debating on what to prepare for dinner. Perhaps you want to fill up the place at lunchtime, post around 1pm, and entice the user on their lunch break with a tasty photo of quick meal!

Research other businesses and see what hashtags are relevant or popular, personalise them to suit your brand. Utilise these specific hashtags whenever posting and encourage your users to use them where possible. You should also conduct some research on your posts and find out which ones have been most successful in terms of likes, shares and comments. By researching theses points you can get a better grasp on what your community prefers the most. There’s no need to fret about hiring an expensive social media analytic to conduct the research, if you are a smaller business sites such as; Hootsuite can definitely help you with free analysis of your social media.


As you can see, despite the constant restrictions and closures which sadly will continue into 2021, there are still many quick and affordable ways to reach out to your community through the power of social media. Utilising the free resources available to you, whilst making small changes to your operational standpoint, you can benefit from the consistent movement from face-to-face to phone-to-phone. Yes, this may not be ideal, but why not give it a go and reek the rewards available to you?


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