Digital Dining: How Social Media Influences the Way We Eat

Social media influences almost every part of daily life – from advertising to global news to connecting with friends and family. It has, importantly, also become a go-to for travel and dining recommendations, and over 70% of customers have used Facebook to decide where to eat.

Restaurants use social media to boost their brand, and as a tool to share menus, opening and closing dates, special offers, reviews, and general information. Some are foregoing a website entirely to focus on social media.

But how is social media changing the restaurant landscape? And how can food and drink businesses harness the power of social media to boost brand awareness and find success?

Social Media and Restaurants

The latest PYMNTS’ exclusive Connected Dining report, “Connected Dining: Word of Mouth in the Digital Age,” found that 37% of diners – which rises to 42% for Generation Z and 46% for millennials – use a restaurant’s social media page to find restaurant information. 88% use online reviews and recommendations on social platforms to decide where to eat, and nearly 22% of customers will revisit a restaurant based solely on social media presence.

It was also found that 45% of users on Instagram share pictures of their food and restaurant aesthetics.

According to Menuzen, these are the top 6 social sites used by restaurants:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. TikTok
  4. Pinterest
  5. X (formerly Twitter)
  6. YouTube

These platforms draw potential customers already in search of their next food experience. Tapping into this expansive audience presents endless opportunities for marketing to not only increase brand visibility, but also highlight the things that make your restaurant, café, bar, or diner a truly unique place to visit.

Food, in the digital age, is no longer just about sustenance. As people share every moment of their lives online, food and drink businesses have an opportunity to highlight their story, their mission, their ingredients, and anything that makes them special.

A Social Media Boost for Restaurant Brand Awareness

Restaurants, like any industry, benefit from brand awareness and recognition to build a loyal following and repeat customers.

Here are a few tips and tricks to best give your restaurant brand a social media boost.

Post Social Content Early – And Often

A social media campaign cannot succeed without fresh content – people will quickly stop visiting a page that doesn’t offer anything new. It also boosts customer engagement, i.e., “likes,” clicks, comments and shares that help your page gain visibility.

Plus, timing is everything. For example, customers looking for breakfast are most likely to browse a café or diner’s page early in the morning. Posting new information, daily specials, or enticing food pictures won’t yield the same results in the afternoon.

Video is King

It’s important to use various content types to keep content fresh. Using a mix video, pictures, and eye-catching text blurbs help maximize engagement with potential customers.

That being said, studies have shown that social media videos, e.g., Facebook Videos, Instagram Reels, TikToks, are now just as effective as television advertising, if not more so. Why? Social media videos are much more flexible: People can watch them on their phones anytime, anywhere.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Free marketing? Yes, please. UGC consists of posts created by your customers and shared to their social media platforms – a gift your customers give you for providing excellent (and picture-worthy) food, strong aesthetics, and an overall positive experience in your restaurant. Importantly, UGC is more than twice as likely to convert customers then restaurant-generated posts, so it’s worth doing everything you can to get people to post about your business.

Pro Tip: Use Instagram to find your UGC. Search your location to see who has tagged you in a post, then simply share that post on your page.

Paid Advertising

If things are moving slow on the engagement and UGC fronts, there is always paid advertising to fall back on. This is a more traditional approach, you’re buying social media ad space where once a business might have bought newspaper or magazine space, or TV airtime.

Targeted – and retargeted – ads, especially on Facebook, are some of the most effective social media tools to help showcase restaurant changes, seasonal updates, or menu specials.

In the end, engagement is more important than anything else – providing an online experience your customers and potential customers will appreciate will help ensure they choose you the next time their stomach begins to rumble.

By including QR codes on your receipts with NCCO custom printing and with DateCodeGenie automated labels, you can link your customers right to your social media pages to boost follower counts and encourage UGC, and make it easier to leave positive reviews as well.

And, as always, it’s important to have all the tools on hand to make their experience as enjoyable as possible once they’re in the door.


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