You don’t need to be a food blogger or have 50k Instagram followers to collaborate with restaurants. All you need to do is be a foodie (who else hates that word?!) and be willing to share your experience on social media. Over the past few years, I’ve partnered with several local restaurants, usually to host blogger meetups, but also just to try something new to share with my followers. I’ve learned a lot from each of my collaborations but surprisingly, all of them worked pretty much the same way.
I should mention that all of my restaurant collaborations were in exchange for a complimentary meal and did not include any monetary compensation. Remember that restaurants operate on tight margins and need to pay waitstaff for your experience so monetary compensation is more difficult than other types of collaborations, but it’s definitely worth a try! This year I collaborated with Bartaco to host a meetup for Style Collective members in CT, and, just last week, I collaborated with Ballo Italian. Both times I was contacted first, but don’t let that discourage you from initiating. Here are my tips for partnering with a restaurant as a professional blogger/influencer from start to finish.
Securing the collaboration
This is, as you may have guessed, the most challenging part of the process. If you already have a restaurant in mind but don’t know anyone to reach out to directly, find the contact info for the events or marketing person. A lot of times restaurants work with PR agencies to handle influencer partnerships, so if that’s the case, you’ll need to reach out to their account executive. If you don’t have a particular restaurant in mind and you’re looking for a place to host a blogger event, I would recommend reaching out to restaurants who already have a history of working with bloggers since that will make the process easier.
Before reaching out, define your objective. What are you looking for out of this partnership? Is it to work one-on-one with the restaurant and share the experience with your Instagram followers? Or are you looking to host a blogger event that has power in its numbers? If you’re hosting a blogger event, restaurants will usually ask that each person share a post of the event tagging the restaurant on their Instagram feed. Be sure everyone participating is aware of the expectations from the restaurant. You don’t want miscommunication to ruin a great event. In your pitch email to the restaurant, be prepared to include an RSVP guest list with social media handles (usually Instagram handles), and number of followers each. The more info you can provide to make the partnership worthwhile to the restaurant, the better. My previous collaborations included a complimentary meal in exchange for a permanent Instagram post and, in some cases, a blog post.
Always confirm details prior to the event. This includes:
- Collaboration agreement: what is the restaurant asking for in exchange for hosting? Is it one Instagram post and Instagram stories? Is it a blog post in addition to the Instagram post?
- RSVP list: include how many people are attending (some restaurants have a max number they can comp)
- Name of the person to speak to when you arrive at the restaurant
- Menu options: are guests allowed to order anything off the menu or will the restaurant offer a specific tasting menu?
- Photo credits: a lot of times restaurants will collaborate with influencers to get organic food shots. Make sure there is a verbal agreement on whether they’ll be reposting your content and giving you credit for the shot.
My favorite #fourthofjuly dessert . Thank you @balloitalian for treating me to an amazing dinner and dessert over the weekend . Highly recommend this cheesecake, the eggplant parmigiana, ribeye steak, and affogato . What’s your favorite dessert for the fourth? #BalloItalian #MoheganSun #ctrestaurants #cteats #ctfood #sponsored
The day of the event
Now that the hard part is over, it’s time to have fun! Like any blogger event, this one will undoubtedly include lots of food photos. If lighting is an issue at the restaurant and you really don’t want to post a dimly lit photo to your Instagram feed (I know the struggle!), take photos outside or ask the waitstaff if you can take photos in the kitchen. I did this for my last restaurant collaboration where it was raining outside and dimly lit inside. Believe me, the staff will appreciate you trying to get the best food shots.
Even if the meal is complimentary, you should still tip the waitstaff. This may seem like common sense, but I’ve seen many people make the mistake of not tipping just because their meal was free. Don’t be that person. Waiting on a blogger event is incredibly time consuming, so be sure to tip at least 20% of what the meal would have cost you.
After the event
Recap the event as soon as it’s over and fresh in your mind. If there was a deadline for you to post, make sure you’re not late. Be sure to disclose whether the meal was sponsored. And of course, always send a ‘thank you’ email after the event and include a link to your social media post and/or blog post from the experience. If all goes well, you’ll have a contact for future collaborations.
Have you partnered with a restaurant before? Share your story in the comments!