First, it should go without saying that great photos of mouth-watering dishes have immense power over the human brain and can turn a person from not even thinking about food to experiencing an intense craving for a product or a taste combination. So purposefully building a collection of great visuals is a must-have for restaurants large and small.

Ideally, you are able to bring in a professional photographer, but if that’s not an option you could find ways to leverage your customer’s photos. User Generated Content (UGC) is marketing speak for this practice. If you have a great customer base that shares photos, awesome. If not, don’t worry. You can run a contest asking your visitors to send you the photos they took during their visit to your establishment and draw a prize for something simple, such as a dinner package.

Once you have the photos collected or you’ve decided to make a concerted effort to create your own, here a 5 do’s and don’ts for using those photos to grow your restaurant business.

Use Social Media

Do: Regularly share a mix of your business’s photos.

  • Pick one or two highly visual social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Use your company account to share and highlight your customers’ photos when you can.
  • Offer friendly and positive feedback and thank you’s for attention to your restaurant.

Don’t: Use photos without tracking licensing and permissions to reuse them.

  • Make sure you ask for permission to re-use photos taken by your customers and come up with a quick and efficient way to request it.


A stunning example of this is from the Craftsman website. Craftsman created a separate landing page called “Craftsman Club” for the public to upload posts that offer DIY project instructions, experiences and critical tips. The company’s approach to user-generated content (UGC) has offered people interested in home improvement, renovations and general home projects to engage with one another – and it all happens right on the company’s branded website, no doubt with product features and advertisements nearby.

The process of User Generated Content (UGC).

The way it works? Everyday people who are interested in home projects login for free to the Craftsman Club and post their process for making something to the “Projects” board. Not coincidentally, all of these projects require the kind of tools and equipment sold by Craftsman.

Many of the posts include specific reference to which tool was used, how it worked to do the job, and secret tips on how it can be done better with a certain tool brand or even with just an alteration in technique when using the tool. Craftsman customers then are posting on the company website how easy it was to build their project with a particular tool, and if there was difficulty, how to overcome that.

Because this information is generated from other customers, it is much more trusted and it makes others seeking “how to” advice much more likely to buy Craftsman products. The Craftsman page is a beautiful example where UGC creates a scenario of social commerce where peers provide validation to one another on which products work best and are worth the money. Consumers no longer have to go out and do all the research themselves, and that is creating power behind the Craftsman brand that the company would otherwise have zero chance of replicating.

Grow Your Brand with Visual Consistency

Do: Try to find a unique way to share your photos, something that really resonates with your business and is unique with your brand.

  • Stay true to that voice and curate all your photos and posts with that in mind.
  • Always, always make sure that all your logos are used properly. They are called “brand assets” for a reason. As your brand grows, they accumulate real tangible value and are part of your restaurant valuable assets.

Don’t: Allow inconsistencies in voice and images.

  • One way to ensure consistency is to never allow your logo or photos that have poor resolution or quality on your website social channels or any publications.


Margaritaville is a tourism and associated lifestyle product company focused on providing their customers with a branded vacation experience centered on Jimmy Buffet’s laid-back tropical lifestyle, complete with never-ending supplies of margaritas.

All of their content online highlights their “vacation-minded” style and brand identity. And their team takes great care to ensure that all images associated with the brand are not only stunning, but they bring the viewing out of wherever they are in the world, and even if for a brief moment, into the tropics where things move a little slower.

Check out this recent tweet:

The comment on the post is telling as well. A Margaritaville follower from Blaine, Washington wrote:

@Margaritaville It’s 5 o’clock in Blaine, Washington but it sure doesn’t look like THAT!????

And with that comment, checkmate. Margaritaville’s created a seemingly simple video that got the audience creating social media comments that imply that you have to go somewhere tropical to feel what is shown in the video: wind rustling through palm fronds with the ocean in the distance. There are no people in the video. There is no drama or plot in the short piece of footage. But the clip was highly calculated to convey the tropical lifestyle of calm by putting the viewer’s mind into the tropical environment and connecting the possibility of that experience to enjoyment, relaxation and comfort. The company further associates it’s brand with these pleasant experiences by literally writing “Margaritaville” in branded text in the bottom corner.

This tweet is an example of an incredible level of control over image quality, video content and essentially, brand voice. Done consistently, this kind of brand protection based in a unique sense of consistency will empower your restaurant’s audience to engage with your brand and burn positive associations into the minds of your customers and audience.

Organize Your Visual Library

Do: Start off right by organizing and storing your photos right from your first photoshoot.

  • Find a solution that fits your budget and size and value of your photo library.
  • The key is making sure you are able to find the right photos when you need them. If you are only able to store photos on your hard drive, make sure you take the time to properly name each photo – what is shown, date, location, create a clear folder structure.
  • Once you have outgrown that solution, it will make it much easier to graduate to a more scalable Digital Asset Management library. If you have an extensive library and have several locations that will need to access these photos and visuals, investigate Cloud Digital Asset Management Solutions. Systems like MediaValet help manage photos, brand assets and videos across multiple locations. They help you easily share even the largest files, track licensing and permissions, organize and approve user generated content and easily work with photographers and agencies.

Don’t: Leave photos unorganized, with auto-generated file names like “123_456” without properly backing them up at least once.


Send an Email Newsletter

Do: Stay in touch with customers by sending out a newsletter sharing new events, seasonal menu items, specials and running contests (like the one to submit photos and user-generated content).

  • Use an email template that is highly visual (if you don’t have an email marketing solution, there are many low cost offers like MailChimp, GetResponse, Benchmark, CakeMail and more).

Don’t: Send the newsletter too often.

  • You’ll stretch your own resources and loose your subscribers. Weekly is probably too much for most customers unless you have something really compelling that changes weekly.
  • Also, while great images are a requirement for an eye-catching, engaging image, using too many is also a mistake. According to a research by Constant Contact, 3 or fewer images result in highest click-through rate.

Add your photos to review sites

Do: Frequently update and grow the collection of your best photos to sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews.

  • It boggles our mind how many businesses have one or two photos of low quality on these online resources. Because of that, they lose customer interest-based the powerful psychology of visual image experience along. Remember, most restaurant patrons these days check the review sites before making a selection on visiting a restaurant.

Don’t: Use customer photos without explicit permission.

  • Also, we don’t recommend only relying on photos taken by visitors to your restaurant. Doing so opens you to the risk of having only low-quality low light photos taken from a mobile device. Don’t forget to invest in a set of photos that represent the great experience at your restaurant.

Growing a collection of visual brand materials for your restaurant sounds complex when you sit down and think about how you are going to do it – but it doesn’t have to be. Restaurants typically start with creating and collecting photos only. Once a process has been developed for photos, many tend to later move on to videos. Point is, building your collection can happen step-wise.

I wish you all the luck, and if you want to talk more about managing your UGC or even a more general enterprise rich media collection, do not hesitate to be in touch.


Equipped to dominate the hyper-growth phase of marketing in a startup, Maria is a brand strategy leader known to drive revenue growth with significant pipeline contribution – and she does it in her sleep. Wholeheartedly dedicated to sharing her wealth of knowledge and expertise with early-career B2B marketers, Maria spends her free time teaching local university courses in Demand and Lead Generation and training for marathons!

Maria Osipova
VP Marketing, MediaValet