Smaller restaurants and food businesses nationwide have been in danger of shutting down since the beginning of the pandemic, but with the help of creative digital marketing tactics, many of these spots have actually flourished over the last year. Take-home meal kits, collaborations with other restaurants, and even turning into a grocery store are some of the methods keeping these restaurants afloat. The incredible ingenuity of these small businesses is being highlighted and celebrated through intelligently-targeted influencer collaborations in local markets.
While some restaurants in certain locales are open to limited capacities, others in “hot-spot” areas are still restricted to delivery and takeout. Though these limitations have seriously challenged the restaurant industry, many restaurants found an opportunity to get creative with their community outreach, making sure that their customers won’t forget them while they’re out.
Restaurants’ varied efforts to adapt to the situation would not be known to customers without social media. By broadcasting their ever-changing situations to customers, social media gives small food businesses a “face” that customers can latch onto. Thanks to patrons urging others to continue supporting restaurants while at home, Instagram mentions and engagement have risen for many spots.
Using the Tagger platform’s growth and mention toggles, and the hashtag #SupportSmallBusinesses, we found these 10 restaurants and/or food brands surviving and even thriving with the aid of influencer marketing.
- Musang (@musangseattle) - Despite opening only a month before the pandemic shut it back down, Musang has grown immensely in 2020 and ultimately landed the title of “Seattle Met’s Top Restaurant of the Year.” After closing, Musang turned into a community kitchen collective, attempting to aid those dealing with food insecurity in the Seattle area. When Musang’s was able to open back up again, they continued the community kitchen. A community-driven restaurant focusing on the education of Fillipinx cuisine, Musang’s dedicated fans are supportive on social media- the restaurants’ individual mentions have a total engagement of 43.5k.
- MILK & CREAM CEREAL BAR (@milkandcreambar) - After a mild growth decline while the NYC and New Jersey shops were closed, Milk & Cream’s Instagram experienced multiple growth spikes following their reopening in May. When the shop was reopened customers shared their excitement on Instagram, seen in the screen-shots from Tagger’s platform below.
Following the frenzy around their reopening, the summer months brought another spike when Milk & Cream bar collaborated with Nick Jr. and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on specialty items. Only available from August 14 to September 14, the shop’s Instagram received over 30 mentions in that time span. Community engagement funded most of these posts, with locals showing support for both shops in NYC and NJ.
- Guerilla Tacos (@guerillatacos) - LA-based taco shop Guerilla Tacos immediately began offering “Emergency Taco Kits” following the shutdown. With basic taco ingredients plus 4 rolls of toilet paper, the restaurant’s effort to stay afloat was well-received and multiple mentions following their announcement have featured satisfied customers. Announced on March 16th, the restaurant’s Instagram growth directly followed. With steady mentions over the months that followed, customers and community members continue to urge others to support the taco spot as their limitations continue.
- Mon Cheri Macarons (@moncherimacarons) - Opened in 2019, Mon Cheri Macarons in Sugar Land, Texas has seen consistent growth despite having to close for the better part of the summer. The shop began offering nationwide shipping in February 2020 and pivoted to promoting this feature amid the pandemic. With each Instagram announcement of a new Macaron “drop,” another one hours later announces they’re already sold out. By keeping up with online demand, Mon Cheri’s social media has received more engagement and continued to grow throughout the past year.
- Olmsted Trading Post (@olmstednyc) - Less than 10 days after shutting down, Brooklyn neighborhood-restaurant Olmsted reopened as a free food bank for restaurant workers. Shortly after, they rolled out a merchandise line and then reopened as a grocery store selling to-go versions of the restaurant’s recipes. Later in the summer, the restaurant opened a “summer camp” version of their restaurant with outdoor dining. Throughout each of these changes, the restaurant has received community support and promotion all over social media. Customers and even other restaurants have actively posted about Olmsted Since March 2020, reminding others to support their local restaurants.
- DOMU (@domufl) - The call to action for restaurant lovers to amp up their support during these times is just as active in Florida, where DOMU, a ramen restaurant has seen growth. With locations in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida, the restaurant began offering their famous ramen for takeout. Customers continued to rave about DOMU on Instagram, with many posts using hashtags #SupportLocal. The shop’s reopening with limited space and hours has not kept them from continuing to produce creative, delicious recipes and the restaurant has received higher customer engagement with the announcement of new recipes and holiday celebrations.
- Omsom (@omsom) - Launched in early May 2020, Omsom specializes in Asian ‘starters,’ spice packets providing customers with real Asian flavors at home. Launching in the middle of a pandemic is a daunting task but word spread quickly of the convenience and quality of Omsom, launching their growth immediately. The brand is a staple for any quarantine kitchen and its' high number of mentions on Instagram make this clear. Beyond regular mentions from customers and influencers, Omsom is incredibly active on Instagram, educating, entertaining, and engaging with audiences on each post.
- Dough & Arrow (@doughandarrow) - In addition to offering take-out and delivery for customers, Dough & Arrow began offering “take & bake” cookie dough in response to safety restrictions. The shop’s pre-orders and in-store offerings continuing to sell out daily proving customers are still coming out to support. Engagement from both the shop and its’ audience has been seen on Instagram, where the shop has done multiple giveaways throughout the year and customer mentions have continued to promote their seasonal offerings.
- Flour + Water (@flourandwatersf) - When Flour + Water’s San Fransisco restaurant shut down, the shop was unheard from until it began collaborating with other local bars and restaurants to create meal and cocktail kits. After seeing how fast the first batch of pasta kits sold out, the restaurant immediately began on more, continuing this through to 2021. The restaurant has since begun offering delivery and takeout and is preparing for an outdoor reopening soon, much to the excitement of their Instagram following. Whether at the restaurant or enjoying from home, customers on Instagram have enjoyed promoting the establishment.
- HOWLIN’ RAY’S (@howlinrays) - After the famed LA Hot-chicken establishment shut down in mid-March, it partnered with Postmates to deliver its’ delicious eats to customers. Loyal customers posted their excitement on Instagram, and the first-day Howlin’ Ray’s was available on Postmates, the brand’s Instagram mentions had a potential reach of nearly 2 million. Their growth and audience engagement has not slowed down since and regular interactions with customers have continued on their social media, with the owner Johnny Ray Zone even hosting IG Lives multiple times in the past few months.