Facebook Ads For Restaurants: 5 Killer Ad Strategies avatar
Facebook Ads For Restaurants: 5 Killer Ad Strategies

Whether your restaurant is high-end, fast casual, a healthy eatery, a gastropub, or fast food, your restaurant’s specific target audience is on Facebook multiple times per day every day of the week.

If you’re not utilizing Facebook ads to reach your customers, you are missing out on one of the most effective advertising channels to reach them. And the worst part, if you’re not promoting your restaurant with Facebook ads, your savvier competitors are and stealing your customers.

Want to target event planners, group dining, private dining? That’s achievable with Facebook ads too.


In this post, I outline why Facebook ads are so important for creating awareness for your restaurant, and give you five killer ad tactics to consider for driving more business (including catering).

Want a copy of this post for reference? Or don’t have time to read it now? Click below and we’ll email a copy to you.


Why Facebook ads to promote your restaurant?

Facebook is hands down the number one social media channel in the world. Your customers are there in the largest concentration out of any other social channel. And the vast majority of your customers access Facebook multiple times per day of which the majority are accessing via their mobile phone­. Pair this with the below statistics and insights (Source: Facebook Quarterly Report):

  • 65% of Facebook users access it daily
  • Facebook has 934 million mobile daily active users
  • Users spend 50 minutes per day on Facebook

Mobile is huge right now, and you’re probably not leveraging it well. Nobody is carrying around the newspaper, or a magazine and checking it multiple times per day – but they are on Facebook via their mobile phones. Of the three hours per day that consumers spend on mobile devices, almost a one-third of that is spent on Facebook! Consider also that many of your restaurant competitors are not very savvy yet with online marketing and are still over-relying on inefficient and wasteful traditional marketing. While traditional marketing has its place, there is a real opportunity for you to get in the game ahead of your slower, less sophisticated competitors.

Mobile Usage Is Exploding – Yet Advertisers Are Not There Yet

Just look at the chart below – it shows the time spent in a media source by your customers versus advertising spend in that media source (Source: Mary Meeker’s Internet Marketing Trends Report 2016). There are some interesting data points here, but the one I want to highlight is the far right bars for mobile. People are spending more and more time on mobile and its growing, yet advertisers are way behind in reaching consumers here. This is a real opportunity for you and your restaurant – your customers are on Facebook almost solely via a mobile device. Chances are your less sophisticated restaurant peers are not there.

Time Spent On Mobile Devices vs Mobile Advertising Dollars


Forget About Facebook Organic Posts – There’s No Exposure Without Ads

You can forget about the Facebook posts you put up on your restaurant’s Facebook page. Almost nobody sees those posts as Facebook has reduced your exposure to only 2% of your fan base – if you had 1,000 fans, you would reach maybe 20 people at best. Without ads, you have no exposure to anyone on Facebook (this is true of almost all social channels – without ads your ability to have an impact in social is severely limited). You say you do catering also? Facebook ads can be used very effectively in B-to-B marketing to target those decision makers as well for company picnics and corporate events. I will get to the specific ad ideas in a moment, but let me show you what’s possible with the targeting. facebook-ads-for-restaurants-course

Incredible Demographic Targeting Possibilities With Facebook Ads

Spanish Tapas Restaurant Facebook Ad Targeting Example­­­ Below we are using Facebook to find people in the greater Houston area that like tapas or tapas bars, are homeowners, and have a household income between $75,000 – $350,000. From this, we can see there are 8,900 people we could target. All the chosen variables in this example can be modified, refined, added to, to create even more precise targeting. So think about this for a moment – what other advertising platforms can you down select for an audience like this? There is none!

facebook ads for tapas restaurant
Facebook ad example for tapas restaurant

Fast Casual Restaurant Facebook Ad Targeting Example Let’s assume you have a fast-casual restaurant in midtown Manhattan as an example. We can target people that have an interest in competitor restaurants in midtown Manhattan. For this example, we selected Chipotle Mexican Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill, El Pollo Loco, and Panera. As you can see, we are targeting a very small area around part of Central Park. Facebook is telling us that there are 34,000 people here that have an interest in those competitor restaurants. The options inside Facebook for being precise in your targeting based on interests, likes, and behaviors are many. I am showing you just a fraction of what’s possible.

fast casual restaurant facebook ad example midtown manhattan
Fast casual restaurant Facebook ad example midtown manhattan
midtown manhattan geo target facebook ads
Midtown Manhattan geo-target facebook ads

Figure 1: Geotargeting restaurant customers with Facebook ads

Facebook Ad Tactic #1: Seasonal Specials

You have dozens of menu items you could promote, but choose a dish that makes sense for the season. It helps if you have a calendar planned out in advance for the year for each month by week. If it is summer and you have great salads, showcase your salad options.

restaurant calendar of spencial events and dishes to promote
Restaurant calendar of special events and dishes to promote

Alternatively, if it is Mother’s Day, showcase the food items that will resonate well with families and moms. Below is another example of targeting for Mother’s Day – perhaps your restaurant has a Mother’s Day brunch special, and you have fun activities planned for young kids as well. Below we are able to find families within 10 miles of San Diego that have kids from newborns to age 12 that also have household incomes greater than $75k and are also homeowners.

parents with young kids, upper income, homeowners
Parents with young kids, upper income, homeowners – Facebook ad targeting


Facebook Ad Tactic #2: Promote Restaurant Entertainment

Does your restaurant have live music entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays? Use Facebook ads to promote your entertainment to people that you know are highly likely to be interested. For example, if you are an Irish pub, and you have an Irish band, target these people on Facebook. Below we pulled everyone in San Diego that likes anything related to Irish music AND that also likes to drink beer.

facebook ads for Irish restaurant

Facebook Ad Tactic #3: Reward Your Existing Customers

It is possible to target your loyal, repeat customers with special promotions, or for just brand awareness to encourage repeat visits. What you choose to promote to them is up to you, but you can easily target them on Facebook. There are a couple of ways to target past customers for your restaurant on Facebook.

  • Retargeting customers with emails: Do you collect email or phone number information from your customers? For example, if you provide free wifi for guests (here’s a mega-valuable related post on how Facebook wifi can provide free local exposure for your restaurant overnight), often they have to enter their email to get access. Well, you can take that email list and load it on Facebook and have Facebook match those emails to profiles – now you have a Custom Audience inside Facebook of past customers you can run ads towards.
  • Website visitors: anyone that has visited your restaurant website can also be retargeted. Facebook allows you to create a retargeting list of anyone that visits your website. This is another good way to reach past customers.


Facebook Ad Tactic #4: Growing Restaurant Catering

Do you also offer catering? Maybe you do corporate events, parties, and more. Promoting this aspect of your restaurant is also possible. Below we selected for anyone that had an executive assistant-like job title.

facebook ads for restaurant catering
Facebook ads for restaurant catering

Facebook Ad Tactic #5: Integrating Ads With Traditional Marketing

Are you spending on traditional marketing tactics – print, radio, or TV? We all know traditional marketing is incredibly wasteful because of the lack of efficient targeting. And the majority of restaurants rely heavily on these old school tactics.

However, with Facebook ads, we can make our traditional marketing that much more effective. Facebook ads can easily integrate with your other traditional marketing efforts. It’s no surprise that integrating efforts like this improves overall response as well – multiple channels and multiple impressions help push the customer closer to a conversion. A consumer survey found that on average, people need more than 12 sources of influence before making a purchase decision (source: Think With Google).

If people hear a radio ad or see a print ad if they also see a targeted Facebook ad they are that much closer to becoming your restaurant customer. So for example, if you are doing any print marketing like mailing out postcards to a USPS carrier route around your restaurant, why not also run Facebook ads in those same neighborhoods as well right before you drop the postcard and then for some time after you drop the postcard? Don’t rely on just that one impression from the postcard, which by the way the majority throw directly into the trash.

Alternatively, what if you’re running local radio ads or a TV commercial? Did you know you can target radio listeners of specific radio stations and TV shows on Facebook? In the below example, I’m targeting people in San Diego that listen to XETRA-FM, watch the Bravo TV station, and watch The Real Housewives series, that own their home, have household incomes between $50k and $100k, and also like the San Diego Padres. If you leverage Facebook ads and integrate them into your traditional marketing tactics, you will improve the “lift” or response from these traditional advertising tactics and will see far better results.

facebook ads integrating with traditional marketing

Types of Facebook Ads For Your Tactics

Facebook offers some different ad formats for showcasing your restaurant’s promotions, brand, or specials. You can be incredibly creative with Facebook ads, and there are many ways to promote your restaurant with rich media.

  • Single Image Ads: these are the most common type of ad and run with only one image. These are fine and work well in Facebook for restaurants, but there are more options to utilize rich media and more creativity.
  • Video ads: do you have great video content? Maybe you had a promotional video made? Perhaps you can highlight the kitchen as the dishes are being prepared (one of the best experiences I have ever had was at a restaurant in downtown Cleveland sitting at the chef’s table – I had a front-row view of how the kitchen was operating, and it was completely fascinating). Video ads will stream through a user’s newsfeed and are on mute until they choose to hear the audio by tapping on the video.
  • Carousel ads: Maybe you have a 3-course executive lunch special. With carousel ads, users can scroll horizontally through different pictures of the lunch special. In this case, you could show each item with a call-to-action interlaced. This type of an ad will give people a real sense for that particular lunch special. Or maybe you have many different offers – you can use carousel ads to highlight each type of promotion allowing people to scroll easily through them to find the most appealing.
  • Canvas ads: these types of ads are by far the richest and most engaging allowing you to really tell a story. They were designed to load extremely fast on mobile phones. With Canvas ads, you can blend in pictures and videos and users can scroll horizontally or vertically allowing them to really experience your brand.

Here’s an example Canvas ad from Facebook for Wendy’s:
facebook carousel restaurant carousel ad 1
Then the user scrolls down …
facebook carousel restaurant carousel ad 2
Clickable menu. And the user can scroll horizontally or vertically.
facebook carousel restaurant carousel ad 3
There’s far more to this Canvas ad than what is conveyed here, but they are very engaging and specifically designed to load quickly on mobile devices.

A Word Of Caution With Boost Posts

If you are already running Facebook ads but using Facebook Boost Post option from the page interface, you are missing the majority of what Facebook offers and I would encourage you to limit that usage. I wrote a related post on the issues with using Facebook’s Boost Post option. And a related post here on how you can use Facebook’s wifi access for free instantly valuable social exposure in Facebook – this is a no-brainer tactic for ANY restaurant.

Wrapping Up Facebook Ads For Restaurants

What I went through above was just a teaser of what’s possible with Facebook ads. The platform has so many options to be laser focused and targeted with your ad spend. If you have a restaurant and have not leveraged Facebook ads to promote your food, specials, or entertainment, you are missing a grand opportunity to engage with new customers where your restaurant competition is not.

Have you tried advertising your restaurant on Facebook? Share your comments and questions below. And if you need help implementing a Facebook ad campaign for your restaurant, please contact us.


  • You stated:

    There are a couple of ways to target past customers for your restaurant on Facebook.

    Retargeting customers with emails: Do you collect email or phone number information from your customers? For example, if you provide free wifi for guests, often they have to enter their email to get access. Well, you can take that email list and load it into Facebook and have Facebook match those emails to profiles – now you have a Custom Audience inside Facebook of past customers you can run ads towards.

    Would love it if you could show us how to load in the emails….

  • Vincent Di Nino

    How are you measuring ROI for restaurant facebook ads?

    • You can measure ROI a couple ways: if you’re using a direct response ad strategy (i.e. Lead Ads in Facebook as an example), then you can count the number of conversions from people interested in the restaurant offer. But the majority of Facebook ad spend for restaurants is best for awareness with your target audience – Facebook provides for consideration with the target audience that you otherwise would have difficulty achieving with other tactics. Measuring ROI then focuses on your income statement – every industry has benchmarks in terms of the percentage of revenue you should spend on marketing. How much are you spending on marketing and what is that overall return on investment?

  • Jami Hensley

    Do you have any videos on how frequent a restaurant should post ads? Also what is “publishing” exactly? Do you recommend “embedding”, if so under what circumstances? Thanks

    • Hi Jami,
      Without knowing what type of restaurant you have, or the budget you have and other details about the restaurant, in general, you should have Facebook ads running all the time creating awareness of your restaurant – either targeting new prospects with seasonal specials, or promotions, etc and retargeting campaigns as well, i.e. people that have visited your website previously or from email lists you have collected (perhaps from people opting in to free wifi). Running ads ongoing doesn’t have to be expensive either – you can run some Facebook campaigns for just dollars per day, but it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve, and budgets etc. Hope that helps.

  • Hi, Sorry I missed this earlier! Yes, often your competitors, if they are not very big, will not show up as a target within Facebook’s ad platform for various reasons. But you can target similar larger establishments as you mention, and there are a whole host of other interests and behaviors that will help you target your specific audience. Yes, income level is not available is some other countries, but is in the US. Regarding day parting, you can do this in Facebook if you use a lifetime budget versus setting a daily spend amount.

  • Gerard

    Great Article! Quick question. Is it a good idea to run FB ads for online orders conversions?

    • Yes, but your site needs to be dialed in, simple, ready for e-commerce. Facebook does have a campaign objective for Conversions but for it to optimize for conversions you need about 50 per week. If you budget is small or smaller than what is needed to optimize for conversions, then you can just send the traffic into the site from your ads using the Conversion objective but with View Content as the conversion (there is a Traffic objective in Facebook but Conversion with View Content is far better). Don’t forget to implement a Retargeting campaign as well – anyone that has visited your site before or any customer lists that you have from, for example, people opting in to wifi – past customers are the ones most likely to buy again from you.