6 Steps to Leveraging Social Media Marketing for Restaurants and Bars

In 2020, if you’re not leveraging social media marketing for your restaurant, you’re missing out on an important tool to promote your business and an excellent way to open up communication with your customers. 

While traditional advertising will always have its place, restaurants that use social media marketing have access to a much less expensive and much more direct way to reach audiences. In other words, there’s no reason not to do it.

With that being said, a lot of restaurants aren’t using social media, or they’re not using it to its fullest potential. If you’re in that boat, read on for the what, why and how of leveraging social media marketing for your restaurant or bar. 

Why is social media relevant to restaurants?

According to QSR Magazine, 89 percent of U.S. diners have at least one social media account, 36 percent of them follow restaurants on social media and 39 percent of them use it to help them decide where to eat when dining out.

That means that, here in 2020, having an online presence is much more than maintaining a website. Sure, your site is a great way to enhance your discoverability, but it doesn’t provide much of an opportunity for interaction. 

And therein lies the key benefit of social media: the right platform(s) will allow people to not only discover your brand, but to engage with it — and assuming you make the experience a positive one, that can be an incredibly effective way to draw in new (loyal) customers.

Another great thing about social media is that it costs nothing to get started. Should you choose to put a spend behind your content (which isn’t a bad idea, especially as you’re trying to grow your following), it doesn’t take a big budget to launch an effective paid social campaign. Plus, targeting your key geographies and demographics is easy on platforms like Facebook or Instagram. And unlike print, television, radio and billboards, you can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.

6 steps to creating a social media marketing plan for your restaurant

Before you start creating social media accounts and randomly posting content, you need a restaurant social media marketing plan. Here are 6 steps to creating and executing the right social media marketing strategy for your restaurant or bar.

 

1. Choose the right platforms 

Trying to decide which social media platforms to use for your restaurant social media marketing can be overwhelming. There are more than 75 different social media platforms, from Tumblr and WhatsApp to LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest. You don’t need to maintain an account on every single one.

When trying to choose the right platform, consider your ideal customer and where they’re likely spending their time.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top three platforms restaurants tend to use. 

Facebook: While Facebook has started skewing toward a slightly older demographic, most restaurants would be wise to maintain a company page for their restaurant, at the very least. Facebook is a great option for restaurants and bars that may not have the time or resources to get a website up and running. On your company page, you can post hours, address, contact information, links to menus, and of course regular content and updates for your followers. 

If you’ve got a budget to work with (even if it’s small), Facebook ads are a great way for restaurants to geo-target their audience. Facebook ads allow you to advertise to people in specific ZIP codes, so you won’t waste your marketing budget advertising to people who likely won’t be visiting your restaurant. You can use other criteria to target your audience, too — like age or income level. If you use Facebook, make sure you take advantage of Facebook Business, which has a whole range of advertising capabilities. 

Instagram: With more than a billion users, Instagram was created to tell stories through beautiful images. And what better way to promote your food, friendly staff, or hip dining space?

While this is subject to change, Instagram currently seems to offer some common ground in terms of demographics: Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and even Baby Boomers are all active on the platform. Here again, if you’ve got a budget, you can run paid Instagram campaigns in tandem with your Facebook ads.

Twitter: Twitter is less image-focused than Facebook and Instagram, but it’s a go-to choice when it comes to real-time interaction between users. Restaurants that leverage Twitter often use it to address questions and complaints, or to keep their audience updated on their latest specials and deals. 

 

2. Select a social media manager  

You may be thinking, “I don’t have the time nor the staff to manage this!” And you may be right.

That’s why a lot of restaurants designate a point person to manage their social media marketing. Not only does that ensure that it actually gets done; it also will help to maintain brand consistency and alignment.

Depending on your budget and the scale of your campaign, you may choose to have an existing employee or manager run your social media marketing. Or it may make sense to hire an in-house marketer who can handle social media along with other marketing needs. Some restaurants leverage agencies that do this work day-in and day-out — which makes sense if you’re planning to make a sizable spend or if you want to constantly be testing and optimizing your campaigns. Another lower-cost option is to look for a freelancer or even an intern; college-aged people, for example, tend to be pretty tech-savvy and are more likely to be familiar with multiple social platforms. 

When it comes to choosing the online face of your restaurant, you want the person or agency to check a few boxes:

Communication skills: Your social media point person doesn’t have to be a novelist, but they need to have solid writing skills, and they should be able to present content (text and images) in a way that’s engaging and on-brand. Which brings us to our next point…

Familiarity with your business and brand: This is more than knowing your menu, hours, and policies (although that’s important, too). They should also be able to capture the personality of your restaurant. A fine dining establishment isn’t going to be posting the same content as a dive bar.  

Experience with key platforms: The person running your social media marketing should have, at the very least, personal experience with the platforms you’re using. Ideally, they’ll also have experience running a business page or account. 

Emphasis on data: A key advantage of social media marketing for restaurants is the ability to measure effectiveness. You should expect regular reporting on metrics that show growth in followers and engagement over time.

Accountability: Whoever has the keys to your social media platforms needs to be 100% trustworthy. Make sure everyone is clear on what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to posting — because as we all know, what happens on the internet stays on the internet. You don’t want to go viral for the wrong reasons!

 

3. Create guidelines

Social media is an extension of your restaurant, which means that anything you post online will need to meet and maintain your brand guidelines and image. To ensure your point person is able to do this properly, create specific guidelines that codify the tone, voice and visual elements of your brand. It helps to provide consistency in messaging and extends the personality you want your restaurant to portray. For guidance, here are three great resources:

How to Create Social Media Brand Guidelines

Building Your Restaurant’s Social Media Presence

5 Steps to Create a Social Media Style Guide for Your Brand

 

4. Implement a social media calendar

Set up a social media calendar to keep you consistent in your posting and plan ahead so you can align your social media posts with upcoming specials and events. Hubspot provides 10 different calendar templates and tools to help you create a well-organized social media calendar. 

 

5. Leverage automation tools

Save time by taking advantage of automation tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social to schedule your posts ahead of time. But social media automation doesn’t stop there. Use chatbots to automatically reply to customers online when you’re not able to. And utilize social listening tools like Hubspot (Hootsuite and Sprout Social also offer this function) to monitor any online interactions with your social media accounts. 

 

6. Utilize user-generated content

User-generated content, or USG, includes photos, tweets, and other social media posts created by your followers that highlight things like the quality of service, your food and beverages, or other aspects of your restaurant. 

USG is essentially free advertising for you because your patrons are posting about their positive experiences at your establishment. You can then repost that content from your own account, as long as you credit the original author of the post. It’s a great way to connect with your audience and allow them to hear from their peers about why your place is so special. Here’s a great guide on how you can encourage your followers to create USG that you can use for your benefit. 

Bottom line: Creating a social media plan for your restaurant doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Once you’ve got a plan in place and your accounts are set up, it’s all about being consistent and authentic with your content — and, of course, letting data be your guide. If you’re not seeing the impact you hoped for, reassess and refine your plan as you go.

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We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!