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Marketing

Facebook Ads for Restaurants: 15 Tips for 2021

by

Jackie Prange

If you’re not yet harnessing the power of Facebook ads for restaurants, it’s time to level up your game.

Consumers are logging more hours online today than ever before, including on Facebook – the world’s largest social network. If you want to entice potential customers to visit your restaurant, your brand needs to show up where they’re spending time. This means restaurant Facebook ads are a must-have for your marketing toolkit.

In today’s digital age of restaurant marketing, it’s a savvy move to expand your reach beyond a run-of-the-mill ad in the local paper or an early morning radio spot. With Facebook ads, you can spend as much (or as little) as you want to reach your target audience and help fill your restaurant’s seats.

In this insiders guide to restaurant Facebook ads, we’ll cover:

  • The benefits of Facebook ads for restaurants
  • Paid vs. organic reach
  • Boosted posts vs. ads
  • 15 tips for restaurant Facebook ads in 2021

Now let’s dive into the digital world of Mark Zuckerberg.

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The Benefits of Facebook Ads for Restaurants

In 2021, it’s essential to master Facebook marketing for restaurants. While crafting a picture-perfect Instagram feed and actively promoting your daily specials on Twitter will surely help whet your potential customers’ appetites, you shouldn’t stop there. The Facebook app is the second-most downloaded app on the market, and users log over a half-hour each day on the social network. Plus, 67% visit a local business page once a week or more. This is what you call a captive audience, folks!

Among all purchases made at local businesses, 70% can be traced back to social media, which means your restaurant needs to have a Facebook page if you want to show up where your customers are searching and outperform your competitors.

Creating a Facebook page as part of your restaurant social media strategy allows you to run ads on the platform, and enables potential customers to discover your restaurant through what is known as “organic reach”. This is simply exposure you don’t pay for – for example, when your restaurant is tagged in a user’s post. Over 20 million people post photos of restaurant meals on Facebook, which could mean plenty of free promotion for your business.

While organic reach is great, the posts on your feed are only seen by users already following you or the ones who know enough about you to actively seek you out. This is a good start, but what about all of the hungry people who have never heard of your restaurant? Enter restaurant Facebook ads. By dedicating a little bit of money to Facebook ads, you can ensure your Facebook page’s content shows up on other users’ feeds and expands your reach beyond your loyal regulars. 

Owner of a cafe using an iPad for business

Boosted Posts vs. Restaurant Facebook Ads 

So how do Facebook ads for restaurants work?

Essentially, there are two main ways to run paid promotions for your restaurant on Facebook: boosted posts and ads. Let’s break each option down and explore how they differ.

Boosted Posts

Boosting a post means paying to promote an existing post on your restaurant’s Facebook page – for example, a post about your Thursday dinner special. This boosted post is typically shown to either the people who follow your page, your followers and their Facebook friends, or people in your local area within a certain age group.

The purpose of boosting a post is to improve the reach of that particular post, which can help you achieve goals of maximizing visibility and improving brand awareness.

Restaurant Facebook Ads

While boosting your posts may seem like a savvy move, running Facebook ads for restaurants is a much more effective marketing strategy. There are many reasons why, but we’ll highlight two of the main ones to start with.

First, unlike boosted posts, Facebook ads are not associated with existing posts on your restaurant’s page. This means you can test several options and make changes to the creative (text, images, and/or video) throughout the duration of your ad campaign – something you don’t have the flexibility to do with boosted posts.

Facebook ads also give you the power to use highly sophisticated targeting, like the ability to create several customized and overlapping audiences from your existing customer databases such as your newsletter list, whereas boosted posts do not.

Ultimately, Facebook ads tend to have a bigger immediate impact and help you achieve more specific campaign goals, like capturing leads or boosting sales. 

Man using a laptop in a restaurant

Facebook Ads for Restaurants: 15 Tips for 2021

Now that you’ve had a taste of Facebook ads 101, we’re ready to serve up some tips you can use to create your best restaurant Facebook ads for your restaurant.

1. Configure Location Targeting

Showing up in the right place is key to getting started with Facebook marketing for restaurants. Set your ads to your local zip code (and perhaps neighboring zip codes) to make sure you’re only targeting customers who can actually visit your restaurant without shelling out for a plane ticket. If you have multiple locations, you can target more than one geographical area as long as the content of your ad applies to all of your restaurants.

2. Set Goals for Your Ads

The best restaurant Facebook ads have an objective that aligns with the company’s business goals, so think about what you want your ad to accomplish for your restaurant. Do you just want to increase likes on your page so that more people will be aware of your brand? Do you want to encourage people to fill out a form to book a reservation? Or, do you want to promote your loyalty program by driving traffic to the membership page on your website?

3. Start with Your Current Customers and Fans

Aiming for quick wins can kickstart your Facebook advertising strategy. Using ‘custom audiences,’ you can easily upload a spreadsheet of email addresses and deliver ads to the Facebook accounts associated with your list.

Don’t have an existing email list? You can also target people who have recently visited your restaurant’s website. All you need to do is embed a code on your site known as a Facebook Pixel, which will enable you to track actions on your ads and your site.

4. Create Lookalike Audiences to Extend Your Reach

Facebook marketing for restaurants doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. Let Facebook do the legwork for you and build a ‘lookalike audience’ full of users similar to your typical guests. The clear benefit of this approach is that you’ll be advertising to people you know are likely to dine with you. To get started, you simply need to upload a source audience of at least 100 people to Facebook – for example, your most engaged restaurant reward program members. 

5. Target Specific Interests

Get granular with your targeting and try restaurant promotion ideas like advertising to Facebook users who are looking for online ordering options. Promote convenience and safety in your ad copy – two key considerations for this group.

No matter what niche interest you target, carefully crafting your targeting and your messaging is a wise move. According to Facebook’s Relevance Score, nailing these elements of your restaurant Facebook ads can help reduce your cost per click (the amount of money you pay for each person who clicks on your ad), because the more enticing your ad is to your market, the more clicks you’re likely to get.

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6. Test Different Ad Formats

Don’t think of Facebook advertising as a “set it and forget it” task. You should strive to have at least two ads running at any given time, and monitor their performance regularly to see which resonates best with your customers. The key here is to try different ad formats like single image ads, video ads, and carousel ads (multiple images and descriptions in one ad).

7. Showcase Various Types of Content

You can also split test different content types and calls to action to see which ones perform best. Split testing involves creating more than one ad set, then testing your ad sets against one another to see which one gets you better results.

An easy way to do this is by swapping out imagery: run one ad with a tantalizing photo of one of your menu items and another ad with a photo of your happy customers dining at your venue. Or, test the wording of your call to action so you can find out whether wording like “Call Now” or “Get Directions” is more effective.

8. Make Sure Your Ads Are Mobile-Friendly

You might be using your laptop to create your Facebook ads, but keep in mind that a whopping 98% of Facebook users access the social network on their mobile devices. Because of different screen sizes, your ads look very different on desktop than on mobile. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your restaurant Facebook ads look sharp across all platforms without any words or images getting cut off. Pro Tip: Use a tool like adparlor to see what your ads will look like on mobile and make adjustments accordingly.

9. Take Advantage of Seasonal Opportunities

Everyone loves a reason to celebrate, so plan some of your ads around big seasonal events. For example, if you want to get people in the door for the launch of your summer menu, you can choose “store traffic” as your ad objective. Or, try creating an ad that will push people directly to your menu. Bonus: You’ll have endless ideas for images, as you can feature whichever photogenic menu item your heart desires.

10. Test Multiple Offers

The most compelling Facebook ads for restaurants tempt your audience with an offer they can’t resist, like a two-for-one appetizer deal or a coupon for 15% off entrées on Tuesday nights. Create ads around different promotions to see what gets the most interest. You can also leverage the element of scarcity and make the discount available for a just limited time to entice the people who see your ad to act fast.

11. Experiment With Cross-Platform Advertising

By nature of the name, you’d assume Facebook ads are made for, well, Facebook. Not quite! Any restaurant Facebook ads you create can also be promoted on Instagram. The best part? You don’t even need an Instagram account to do so. This is a perfect option if your target audience includes millennials or Gen Z, and you want your ad efforts to resonate with them.

12. Measure Your Results

By setting a budget and clear goals for your restaurant Facebook ads, you’ll be able to see if your advertising campaigns are successful or if they’ve fallen short. It’s a good idea to get a sense of industry benchmarks so you can see how your ads stack up. The average cost per click of a Facebook ad across all industries is $1.68, but the food and drink category comes in lowest of all at just $0.42 – which means you shouldn’t need to break the bank to get your message out there.

13. Be Strategic About Ad Placement

Facebook allows you to experiment with multiple ad placements – in your audience’s newsfeed, in Facebook messenger, on desktop, on mobile, and the list goes on. Depending on your placement, your ad costs can vary widely. So, it’s a smart idea to check which placements are working best for your restaurant Facebook ads and then increase your budget for those ads, while removing the low performers.

14. Use Ad Scheduling

You’ll want to make sure your ads are being delivered only when it’s most relevant for your customers (Remember: social media is all about the here and now!). For instance, if you’re looking to capture some foot traffic during the lunch rush, schedule your ads to run from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Or if you know you’re completely booked Saturday night, be sure to pause your ads during that time. The worst thing you can do is pay for ads when you don’t need customers. 

Not sure what time is best? Look at your Facebook data to see what times people engage with your ads most. The results might surprise you!

15. Continue Testing!

As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Fortunately, it’s easy to change up your restaurant Facebook ads on the fly. Or, if you are getting great results from your ads (hats off to you!), keep things fresh by regularly testing to see what works in case you land on something even better.

Get Creative with Restaurant Facebook Ads

If you’re looking for a strategic, cost-effective way to promote your restaurant, it’s time you consider Facebook ads for restaurants and let your creative side shine. Not only will Facebook advertising help you keep your existing fans engaged, but it can also help you reach entirely new audiences of potential customers.


Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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