Many restaurant owners don’t believe that maintaining a Pinterest account provides the same benefits and cost-value results of other social platforms, but posting on Pinterest increases a restaurant’s exposure to the most favorable demographic group for restaurant marketing — the women who choose where people dine about 80 percent of the time.[1] The Pinterest platform isn’t like other social media, but its design is based on a different way of browsing that’s like entering a building with specially curated merchandise of interest to each user.

Transforming your restaurant’s menu and services into appealing visual images or pins can generate traffic, build your brand, encourage sharing and foster customer loyalty. It’s possible to achieve these goals with creativity, little or no costs and minimal content curation. Restaurants have a big advantage in Pinterest marketing because they can create and post instructograph recipes, mouth-watering food photos, behind-the-scenes images, nutrition information and maps and photos that show the origins of foods.

You can open a business account at Pinterest free, and currently, business and personal accounts have the same characteristics.

Pinterest History and Profile

Pinterest was founded in San Francisco in 2010 and rapidly grew into a major social media platform. Founded by Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra, the company is operated by Cold Brew Labs and supported by outside investors. Pinterest CEO Silbermann conceived the idea in 2008 as a Google employee when he thought of the benefits of having a platform where he could share his favorite items, hobbies and collections. Silbermann had collected bugs as a child and was interested in sharing his hobby with like-minded enthusiasts.

The plans for the company developed into a grid-based website like a bulletin board where people could pin images around a central topic. The idea rapidly caught on with consumers — especially women who loved having a place to post household tips, fashions ideas, recipes, images of children and other types of pins.

Three months after launch, Pinterest had 3,000 users, many of whom were very active and enthusiastic. The original recruitment strategy focused on encouraging members to send invitations to their friends and associates, but the site grew so quickly that Pinterest eventually allowed new members to sign up with their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Pinterest was the fastest growing social platform over the past year while Facebook’s active membership actually dropped by 8 percent.[2] Mobile marketing on cellphones and sharing images and posts easily on smaller screens can account for Pinterest’s growth. The number of active Pinterest users is predicted to hit 47.1 million in 2015, which includes 42 percent of adult women who use the Internet in the United States.[3]

Pinterest Expansion Plans

Custom apps and widgets are likely to help restaurants establish h4er advertising campaigns on the site, but for now, restaurants have fewer marketing options on Pinterest than other social platforms. The company plans to offer small businesses a series of webinars, workshops and other learning tools to maximize their marketing results. New formats for advertising are in the works, and these include making upgrades to Promoted Pins.

Pinterest recently established the Pinstitute, an educational program that helps businesses connect with its regular members or “Pinners.” Another new Pinterest feature is “Rich Pins” that provide more information for consumers, such as where to buy products and reviews and ratings for recipes, products and movies, and these pins offer h4er marketing potential for restaurants.

How Pinterest Works for Restaurants

Opening a business account in Pinterest involves just a few steps –you can actually sign up with your restaurant’s Facebook or Twitter account or convert a personal Pinterest account into a business account. Navigate to the Pinterest Business Page, and click on the button to join as a business.

  1. Choose your business type, and name a person to be responsible for managing the account.

  2. Navigate to the profile page to supply information that the public can see.

  3. Upload an image to symbolize your restaurant.

  4. Verify your website to receive HTML code that you should upload to your website’s root folder.

  5. If applicable, connect to other social networks to share pins.

  6. Add the “Pin It” and “Follow” buttons to your website.

After getting your business account and first “Pinboard,” you can begin organizing and posting pins on relevant restaurant topics, such as recipes, cooking tips, food facts and menu images. Pinterest marketing consists of two phases: promoting your brand by posting images and descriptions in organized “pins” and buying pay-per-click advertising or Promoted Pins to reach a wider audience.

Generic Promotions

The first step of interacting successfully with Pinners is to establish Pinboards to post images that tell a story, demonstrate your food, showcase your restaurant or cover a catered event like a wedding, anniversary party or local festival. You’re only limited by your creativity and Pinterest’s terms of service for businesses. Unlike some of the other social platforms, Pinterest has many posting restrictions that affect restaurants — such as not directly promoting alcohol consumption.

You can create public and private boards, which are great platforms for employees or making special offers to targeted customers. Coupons and discounts are popular pins, and restaurateurs can make offers to Pinterest’s large membership without paying commissions and fees like those of daily deal websites. You can promote your existing boards and pins as part of your long-term marketing strategy.

Promoted Pins

You can use promoted-pin advertising to increase awareness, engagement and traffic at your restaurant. Pinterest users, according to Pinterest’s internal marketing, often pin Promoted Pins for later use, so you can expect to receive up to a 5-percent increase in engagements even 30 days or more after a campaign ends. Walmart tripled its referral traffic by marketing with Promoted Pins, and Pinterest suggests that engagement rates for Promoted Pins are 2–5 percent higher than the results from other kinds of social media advertising.

Auction pins are available to U.S.-based businesses, but you need to get approved. The process takes about three weeks or less. Once approved, you must follow Pinterest’s rules that include:

  • You can only advertise active pins and not pins created especially for marketing purposes.

  • Restaurants can’t promote alcohol, drugs, porn or guns.

  • Only one hashtag is allowed in each ad, and the hashtag must be unique to the restaurant and not a generically popular topic.

  • You must choose a pin to promote from a board that you created.

  • Choose relevant keywords to use in your ads just like any other pay-per-click advertising.

  • You can target customers by city, language (Spanish is a popular choice for restaurants), gender and computing devices.

  • No calls-to-action are permitted.

  • Choose the maximum price that you’re willing to pay for each click and each pin and a budget limit.

Advertising Restrictions for Pinterest Promotions

Unfortunately, restaurants can’t directly promote content on Pinterest that encourages people to drink or buy alcoholic products online. Other restrictions include:

  • Targeting minors

  • Targeting Pinterest ads for alcohol sales

  • Suggesting that alcohol consumption provides physical or social benefits

  • Depicting inebriated people

  • Promoting higher alcoholic content as desirable

  • Selling alcohol online

  • Promoting illegal activities

You can advertise events where food and alcohol are served responsibly, recommend alcohol and food pairings, offer wine education classes and use other types of advertising where alcohol is mentioned with food. Your Pinterest boards can also include events that are sponsored by alcohol brands as long as the events don’t focus on alcohol consumption. You can showcase and market products like wine glasses, corkscrews, flasks and beer steins.

Reservation-Style Promoted Pins

These ads are designed more for national advertisers and restaurant chains. Using reservation-booking advertising is likely to cost more than small, independent restaurants are willing to pay. Pinterest has been working with large corporate partners who can afford to spend $1 million or more on Pinterest advertising, but the company plans to offer reservation-style pins to smaller businesses soon.[4]

Pinterest Effectiveness

Pinterest marketing is effective for promoting food, family restaurants and healthy menus, but users pin and re-pin content often so that restaurants must usually spend a lot of time pinning new material to get good results. It’s important that you own the images that you pin because your restaurant could run into copyright problems when pinning material from other sources. It’s also important to write succinct and convincing descriptions with relevant keywords, or your pins might not get noticed unless you pay for Promoted Pins.

Comparison of Pinterest to Other Marketing Platforms

All advertising is potential competition for Pinterest marketing because restaurant owners only have limited time to spend on promotions. Instagram is Pinterest’s biggest competitor with its photo-friendly format, large membership and national reputation. Pinterest is still developing its business model and doesn’t offer many ways to advertise, but small restaurants can generate traffic without spending money. It seems worthwhile to spend some time targeting Pinterest’s large audience of women if your restaurant promotes food for families and couples instead of alcohol, entertainment, games and nightclubbing.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Pinterest Marketing

The cost benefits of free promotions are hard to challenge, but restaurateurs have to consider where they’ll concentrate their marketing efforts to get the best results for both the time and money invested. Reaching a predominately women audience of enthusiastic and active Pinners seems like a worthwhile choice for most restaurants. If you own a sports bar that caters to men, interacting on Pinterest probably won’t justify the effort. Bars, neighborhood pubs and even gastropubs might question investing much time on Pinterest marketing. However, family restaurants, fine dining establishments and fast casual restaurants can get good results with carefully curated Pinterest marketing campaigns.

Concluding Thoughts

You can link your brand indelibly to appealing images of food, local attractions and convivial celebrations by posting on Pinterest. You don’t have to spend money except to manage your account, but you can amplify your results with paid advertising.

What We Like

We like that you can market your restaurant, engage customers, strengthen brand loyalty and offer incentives without breaking your advertising budget. Pinterest drives sales because its members are composed of the highest number of key decision-makers who decide where their families dine. It’s short-sighted not to take part in a social platform that’s currently valued at $11 billion dollars and reaches 42 percent of adult women on the Internet.

What We Don’t Like

It’s easy to get in trouble by posting images that you don’t own. Although you’re protected on the Pinterest site, social media are made for sharing. The protection doesn’t apply if people share copyrighted images in other forums because you run a business. It’s important to screen your posts and posting habits for copyrighted material and images that violate Pinterest policies on encouraging people to drink. You can’t promote alcohol consumption, but you can use alcohol as a recipe ingredient.

Final Assessment

Social media changed the way that restaurants market themselves and have become critical to business success. Women heavily influence where most people dine, and Pinterest users are primarily women in the most desirable demographic age group. Restaurants can get powerful results by posting images that don’t take a lot of time or money to manage, and promoting the most popular pins on your Pinboards increases your results in ways that are predictable and manageable.


[1] Summit Marketing: How Do Men and Women Differ in Choosing to Dine Out?
[2] Adweek: INFOGRAPHIC: Explosive Active User Growth for Pinterest, Tumblr
[3] By the Numbers: 250 Amazing Pinterest Statistics(October 2015)
[4] $1 Million? Pinterest Would Like to Sell You an Ad