Feb 22, 2024
 min read

How Restaurants Can Win Over Gen Z and Millennials on Social Media

This article outlines:

Why social media is more critical than ever for restaurants

10 ways restaurants can reach Gen Z and Millennials on social media

Coming up: Real-world examples from social-savvy restaurants


According to a 2022 survey by MGH, 53% of Millennial TikTok users and 38% of TikTok users from across all generations (approximately 51.8 million people) have visited or ordered from a restaurant after seeing the eatery on the platform.

Needless to say, social media has become an essential avenue for finding and attracting new guests—especially those under the age of 40.


But it’s not enough to post an occasional video or photo. Restaurants need to outline specific goals for each social platform—building brand awareness, engaging directly with guests, showcasing unique offerings, driving app downloads, etc.—and spend time cultivating a community around their brand.

Success will look slightly different for each restaurant, but you’ll be better positioned to reach Gen Z and Millennials if you follow these tips.


1. Make a great first impression

A recent study by PYMNTS found 37% of diners search for restaurant information by accessing content from a restaurant’s social media page. That share jumped up to 42% for Gen Z and 46% for Millennials.

If you think of social media as the front porch of your restaurant brand, what do you want your guests’ first impression to be? Consider everything from the look and feel, to the information provided, reviews, and engagement with followers.

2. Have a clearly defined brand persona

Imagine your restaurant brand was a real person. How would they speak? Are they playful, thought-provoking, punny, or personable? And what would they care about?

A brand persona with these types of details can serve as a filter to ensure consistency across every caption, image, video, etc., and build trust with your audience on social media.

3. Prioritize quality over quantity

Focus your efforts on two or three major social platforms, so you don’t spread yourself too thin or appear inauthentic to your audience. If you’re unsure which social channels are worth the investment, consider your current guest demographics, look at referral traffic sources in Google Analytics, and/or survey your guests with high lifetime value (LTV).

It’s important to know what your competitors do well on social, but also what they don’t. Seize opportunities to engage your target audience in new ways and, most importantly, stay laser-focused on your brand’s goals.

4. Optimize everything

To ensure guests can easily find your restaurant and engage with your brand, fill out every aspect of your social media profiles, including the bio, online ordering links, location details, contact information, etc. And take advantage of platform-specific features like busy hours, reviews, and buttons that enhance the user experience.

Create a clear call-to-action—like “Order online” or “Reserve a table”—to maximize conversions, and use your bio to spotlight noteworthy happenings (“Coming soon to Madison Square Park,” “Get free fries when you become a loyalty member,” “New flavor alert: Score a double-fudge brownie for a limited time,” etc.).

5. Think of it as a conversation

The key to bringing hospitality online and creating community around your brand on social media is communicating directly with current and prospective guests. At the end of the day, people want to feel seen and valued.

Social-savvy restaurants not only respond when guests tag them in a photo, comment on a post, or leave a review, but also share user-generated content to reinforce their bond with guests. Branded hashtags and geotagging are great ways to source user-generated photos and videos to supplement your content calendar.

Download Olo's Restaurant Marketing Guide

6. Embrace authenticity

People go on social media to feel connected, inspired, and educated. And Gen Z, in particular, craves authenticity and transparency from brands.

So instead of trying to be perfectly polished and promotional at all times, embrace the real on social media. For example, well-lit, expensive photography is important for your website, app, and menu, but your social followers also want natural, lo-fi content (it’s proven to get 40% more views than hi-fi visuals).

7. Go all in on video

Photography and carousels go a long way, but video is still king—TikTok alone has 1 billion+ monthly active users. Restaurants can seize on its popularity by telling visual stories of their food, brand, employees, and guests.

For example:

  • A catering order being prepared
  • Piping-hot food coming off the line
  • Employees sharing their favorite toppings
  • Meet the “Guest of the Month”
  • The origin story of your famous queso
  • A DIY smoothie tutorial

8. Be consistent

When it comes to curating your restaurant’s Instagram profile, consistency—from the overall look of your grid to the posting schedule—is key. In fact, 30% of Millennial diners actively avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.

A strategic content strategy can help. Establish a regular posting cadence with recurring themes (food, drinks, people, restaurant vibe, brand story, user-generated content, etc.) and an aesthetically pleasing brand color palette.

9. Do good

Gen Z is heavily invested in social issues, particularly as they play out online. As such, they’re 72% more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes—and Millennials aren’t far behind at 69%.

By demonstrating your restaurant brand values on social channels, you can foster community and loyalty through transparency and goodwill.

10. Leverage influencers

Nearly half of Gen Z has made a purchase based on a recommendation from a social media influencer because they trust their opinion. And it doesn’t have to be a celebrity. You can leverage micro-influencers with strong engagement in your restaurant community to help drive sales, followers, and general awareness via co-branded posts.


From Likes to Loyalty

When it comes to marketing to Gen Z and Millennials on social media, restaurants need to be highly intentional and authentic. Anything less and you risk missing out on an increasingly valuable segment of your target market.

By taking these steps, you can boost brand awareness, grow your following, drive orders, give regulars an easy way to advocate for your business and set your brand apart from the competition.

For more inspiration, check out 23 restaurant social media post examples from social-savvy Olo customers like Chili's, Jimmy John's, and more.

Need a restaurant marketing platform to support your guest acquisition and retention goals? Check out Engage and request a demo today.

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok at Pexels

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