The Reel Deal on Mobile Video for Restaurants

The power of mobile video can help build a restaurant's brand and expand its audience.

For the tech-savvy chef, the next course on the social media menu is ready to be served. Harnessing the viral power of mobile video, apps like Vine and Instagram can help build a restaurant’s brand and expand its audience by giving followers a peek into the lesser-seen action of your restaurant. And with combined millions of social media users, these tools are certainly worth a closer look.  

Vine, the looping six-second social video app owned by Twitter, has generated more than 40 million users since launching in January 2013. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, was quick to respond, bringing its 150 million active users 15-second video capabilities a year ago and introducing sponsored video and photo ads in November (albeit at premium prices). 

Use these wildly popular platforms to give a tour of your kitchen, like restaurateur Scott Conant, who showed the kitchen at Scarpetta in New York with Vine.

Service demos for staff training always make for decent fodder. Chef-owner Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin uses Instagram video to show how the restaurant folds napkins. Searchable hashtags like #kitchenlife and #restaurantlife are popular for sharing the chaos of working the line or creating a goofy montage of back-of-house antics. 

For the artistically inclined, Vine’s automatic looping feature can create a cool effect for shorter images, like the egg yolk suspended in water shot by Chef Richard Blais of The Spence in Atlanta.

Use it to promote your offerings, like Table Fifty-Two in Chicago, which shot a series of takes to showcase its bourbon and whiskey collection. Haydel’s Bakery in New Orleans created a stop-motion animation of French Market K-cups to promote its new coffee supply. And it never hurts to do something weird: Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons Island, Ga., shot a video of fireworks exploding a hot dog—because why not? 

Chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure Restaurant + Lounge in Portland, Ore., prefers Instagram for its lengthier 15-second time frame and lack of “noise” compared to Twitter. He uses it to show off labor-intensive dishes at the restaurant and form a connection with diners. “Followers and fans who don’t know you can see you are a real person—they can hear your voice and see your mannerisms,” he says. “I post videos of me doing things outside of the kitchen so they get a full picture of who I am.”

The versatility of photos and videos on Instagram is the draw for Chef Craig Deihl at Charleston, S.C., restaurant Cypress. “Instagram allows me to paint a picture for people who can’t be behind the scenes with me,” he says. “Its greatest marketing value is that I can showcase my food quickly, efficiently and beautifully.”

Bottom line: Your needs and the size of your social following will determine the best platform for your restaurant. If your primary social network is Twitter, Vine might be a better place to integrate your videos. Alternatively, if you already have a large Instagram following, your fans might be more inclined to engage with you there. Your best bet is to try both and see which one fits the bill.  

Social Standoff 

Can’t choose which mobile video platform to use? Here’s a look at the strengths of each:


No need to reinvent the wheel
If you’re already on Instagram, there’s no need to rebuild your audience. 

Mess around with filters
Instagram has more editing capabilities than Vine for artsy-looking videos.

Sharing made easy
With just one click, videos can be shared to accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Flickr.


Easy learning curve
You have six seconds to work with by tapping to point and shoot. Pretty hard to screw up. 

Integrates best with Twitter
Vine embeds seamlessly into your feed, whereas Instagram videos only show up as a link.

Embedding abilities
While sharing is limited to Twitter and Facebook, videos can be embedded into websites, making them easily featured on your own site or someone else’s.