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How to collaborate with micro influencers to grow restaurant sales

Social media can have a big impact on users’ food choices — scroll through Instagram food posts on an empty stomach and you’ll experience the effect for yourself. The power of social media suggestion is so strong, in fact, that it’s a cornerstone of many restaurants’ marketing strategies. One study found that 53% of millennials have dined or ordered from restaurants after coming across them on TikTok. Social media has a direct influence on diners.

If you run a restaurant, now’s the time to go all in on social media. As you expand your online presence, working with micro-influencers is one way to build a bigger audience quickly and maximize your marketing budget.

What are micro influencers?

A micro influencer is a person who has a small, highly targeted social media following — typically, between 1,000 and 50,000 followers. These influencers build an audience by posting about a specific topic, offering opinions and sharing products or locations.

In the food industry, micro-influencers are often called food bloggers or food influencers. They usually focus on cooking, specific cuisines, outrageous dishes or restaurant reviews. Some people review different desserts, for example, while others focus on the best restaurants in a specific city or region.

The power of the micro influencer lies in the name: influence. Followers value the person’s opinions, perspectives or style. If the influencer shares a positive opinion of a product or a restaurant, it can affect consumer decision-making and result in a surge of sales for the business.

Influencing is such a powerful driver for sales, in fact, that brands regularly drop tens of thousands of dollars on sponsored posts. As a result, successful food influencers have gained millions of followers and six-figure incomes.

If your restaurant’s marketing budget is smaller, you can still integrate a similar strategy — that’s where micro influencers come in. Because they have smaller followings, these online personalities tend to be more affordable, available and flexible. Their audiences are often more loyal and engaged, which can result in a higher ROI.

Of course, paid posts aren’t the only way to get exposure from influencers. They often come to your restaurants and mention your food without being asked. To keep tabs on what people are saying about your restaurant, it’s critical to build a social media presence and monitor brand mentions.

Why partner with food bloggers?

Influencing is the modern version of word-of-mouth advertising. When you partner with food bloggers, you can leverage their network to build brand awareness for your restaurant. Since the review or recommendation is coming from a trusted source, followers may be more receptive to the message.

While you can reach new audiences through your own social media, food bloggers speed up the process. With a single post, you can reach a broad group of people who are already interested in what you have to offer — no targeted advertising required. Influencer marketing fits neatly into your existing social media strategy by driving traffic to your business website, profiles and online ordering platform.

3 tips to successfully collaborate with food bloggers

Collaborating with food bloggers and micro-influencers can be an effective way to increase your restaurant’s social media reach and engagement. Foodie influencers live and breathe social media, so they understand exactly how to capture their followers’ attention and convince them to buy.

Authenticity is critical — audiences can spot an insincere money grab a mile away. To get the most from a partnership, it’s important to find the right blogger for your brand. Food influencer marketing is most effective when the restaurant and the influencer feel like a natural, organic match.

1. Build your restaurant’s social media presence

The best way to find food influencers is to meet them where they are — on social media. Before you reach out to bloggers, take time to build a robust and attention-grabbing digital presence. At a minimum, you should have:

Regular posts attract new customers, but they also show influencers you’re online and active. After all, exposure goes both ways; bloggers rely on you to share their posts to form a collaboration.

If you already have an established online presence, take engagement to the next level. Encourage your followers to comment by asking questions, hosting contests, or seeking input about new menu items. Give people (and bloggers) a reason to stop in by posting about specials and followers-only deals. When someone comments, respond; it’s a fun way to humanize the brand and attract influencers who want to work with people rather than a faceless corporation.

Keep in mind that some influencers will order delivery before writing a review. Don’t forget to include a link to your online ordering platform. Convenience matters — if your existing system doesn’t provide a fast, seamless experience, switch to Grubhub Direct to create a branded, commission-free ordering website at no additional cost.

2. Follow trending hashtags and accounts

Social media is all about the trends. To find top influencers, keep an eye out for trending hashtags that food bloggers use to connect with followers. Follow the hashtags to find relevant accounts and engage in the latest discussions. Look for posts with plenty of thoughtful comments; they indicate the audience is highly engaged.

Start with popular restaurant-related tags:

  • #Foodie
  • #FoodBlogger
  • #Foodstagram
  • #FoodPhotography
  • #GoodEats
  • #RestaurantPhotography

If you have an independent restaurant, find micro-influencers by refining your hashtag search with niche terms. For example, if you run a restaurant in Chicago, you could follow #ChicagoRestaurants, #ChicagoFoodie or #ChicagoEats. Do you focus on a specific cuisine? Try hashtags such as #ThaiFood, #PastaLover, #HealthyEats or #ChicagoVegans.

While you’re exploring hashtags, you’ll probably come across accounts that feature restaurants in your city or genre. Follow them and note when they share posts from local bloggers; it’s a great way to spot micro-influencers in your area.

3. Reach out to influencers directly

As soon as you find an influencer who seems like a good match for your restaurant, reach out directly. Request a collaboration, and explain a little bit about your restaurant’s story and vibe. Your message should also explain:

  • What you’re looking for: You might want a restaurant review or a menu promotion, for example.
  • What you’re offering in return: Few people are willing to work for free. At a minimum, you should offer a free meal or a discount. If you want to work with popular influencers, be prepared to pay.

Don’t be afraid to start with small, local influencers — people with highly relevant, active audiences can bring a big return for your business. They also receive fewer offers, so you can often start a partnership on a budget. When you’re reaching out to someone with 10,000 or more followers, get in touch by email. People with large audiences get hundreds of DMs, so email is a good way to ensure your message doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

How to prepare for a food influencer’s visit

Preparation is the key to a successful blogger collaboration. To get ready, follow these steps:

  • Choose a good time: Suggest a time when the restaurant is busy but not completely full. The blogger can get a sense of the vibe, and the staff will have time to provide plenty of attention.
  • Focus on presentation: Make sure your table settings, plating, and presentation are top-notch and ready to shine in the influencer’s photos. Consider seating the blogger near a window; the natural light will help the food look its best.
  • Agree on a menu in advance: Work with the influencer before the visit and decide whether they’ll be trying a specific dish, selecting from a tasting menu or ordering off the regular menu.
  • Prep your staff: Ask servers to be prompt and courteous but not overbearing, and suggest the owners stop by the table to say hello. End the visit on a positive note by thanking the influencer and inviting them back.

Give influencers a reason to celebrate with food holidays

Influencers are always looking for new trends to inspire content. In the restaurant industry, food holidays — days that celebrate a specific food or cuisine — are the perfect fit. Get in on the fun by inviting local influencers to post about your restaurant on a relevant holiday; find a full list on the National Food Holiday calendar. Sweeten the deal by giving them a special discount to include in the post. On National Donut Day, you might host a $1 donut promotion or hand one out for free to every diner.

Your cuisine is a click away with Grubhub

To get the most from your influencer marketing campaign, it’s important to give viewers an easy way to order. That’s where Grubhub Direct comes in. Include your Direct link in your social media profile and the influencer’s post and customers can order while your restaurant is top of mind. To get started and put your restaurant in front of more customers, join Grubhub today.

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