Become an Instagram Hot Shot

Twinkie Dinkie Milkshake at Sugar Factory. Images: Chad Fabrikant (Carma Connected) unless otherwise noted

Sugar Factory’s Meatpacking District location was revealed as the Most Instagrammed American Restaurant in New York by USA Today in 2016.

The social media website is highly important to the Las Vegas-based restaurant, bar and retail chain, because it’s a subtle form of marketing. “It helps our brand by spreading the word,” says founder and owner Charissa Davidovici. “It’s a great tool to reach across the world.”

And this kind of subtle marketing is what’s appealing to Millennials today. “It’s very organic marketing and the organicness is how kids work today,” she says. “Everything is on phones, is digital, and it’s amazing how quickly things spread.”

Sugar Factory and Instagram have grown up together. The former launched in 2009 and the latter a year later. “As we grew we stayed up on it. It’s something we work hard at and we encourage travelers and customers to use it,” Davidovici says. “It’s a wonderful tool for the growth of our business. We thrive on everything visual, from our foods to our drinks and the celebrities that come into our locations.”

White Chocolate Burger at Sugar Factory

And Sugar Factory, which has 12 U.S. restaurant locations serving alcohol beverages, is not wanting for followers: the brand already has 139,000 of them, posting on a regular basis. It’s not unusual for the chain to be tagged upwards of 100 times a week.

Read this: Insta Famous: How to Curate Your Instagram Presence

“Instagram is a visual tool that allows bars/restaurants to showcase their food, drinks and atmosphere to a community willing to engage with this type of content,” says Ali Grant, director of Be Social Public Relations, San Diego, CA, which specializes in digital publicity, among other things. “It's the perfect place to find new customers and interact with loyal customers.”

More and more, she says, she’s seeing consumers head to Instagram “as a discovery tool to learn more about brands.” Restaurants and bars using Instagram should be sharing their atmosphere, cuisine, and overall vibe. “Your Instagram should be a place to show off and share what makes your bar/restaurant the very best to attract new customers and drive awareness,” Grant adds.

The Chocolate Gold Fondue at Sugar Factory

The Chocolate Gold Fondue ($1,000)

Of the posts on Instagram, around 60 percent come from Sugar Factory and 40 percent from customers, though that can vary, depending on what’s going on at the restaurants. The restaurant posts pictures of new food or beverages coming out, as well as photos of guests enjoying themselves, and of course, celebrities.

Read this: Why You Should Consider Booking an Instagram Celebrity

Grant suggests posting around once a day, but only if you have something to say. “Always post with purpose,” she explains.  

And Sugar Factory does all it can to encourage guests to post. First, the food and beverages are designed with photography in mind. “When you come into a location it’s always an entertainment, an excitement, so of course everyone takes pictures. Our products just basically say ‘Take my picture,’” says Davidovici.

Night Owl Goblet at Sugar Factory

“We try to play on the fun of candy, sweets and colors in all of our dishes. In our sweet dishes, we add fun pops of color and candy and over-the-top presentations, and to our goblets, we add bubbly sweetness to add a dramatic touch and lots of candy garnishes for fun photo opps.”

As an example of over the top, Davidovici points to the King Kong Sundae, which is 24 scoops of ice cream covered with hot fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce, sliced bananas, toasted marshmallows, Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chip cookies, crushed waffle cones, gummy bears, white chocolate strawberry shavings, and toasted walnuts with whipped cream, giant lollipops and large sparklers.

King Kong Sundae at Sugar Factory

And employees encourage all picture taking and posting. For example, before bringing out the King Kong Sundae, they’ll inform a table of guests that it’s on its way, so they can get their phones ready to take pictures or video. And before it arrives, they’ll turn off the lights to make it a big performance. “It’s all about excitement and we want them to capture it for their own memories,” Davidovici says.

One thing to be aware of, says Grant, is sharing unappealing photos of food and beverages. She recommends investing in a good photographer, proper lighting and photo editing, “so you share content that is appetizing.”

Read this: Produce Big Marketing Results with a Small Budget

There’s not just the visual side of Instagram—it’s also a way to be in touch with guests and connect with them. “We are in constant communication with all of our guests and are always interacting with them,” Davidovici explains. She reads posts and comments on photos.

“Instagram allows you to have one-on-one interaction with your customers, giving you a place to deepen your connections and visibility to your guests,” Grant says.

Cotton Candy Cosmo at Sugar Factory

Cotton Candy Cosmo 

Recipe courtesy of Sugar Factory

  • 2 oz. Cotton candy vodka    
  • 1 oz. Orange vodka              
  • 0.5 oz. Triple sec                 
  • 1 oz. Lime juice                    
  • 1 oz. Cranberry juice
  • Cotton candy and Pop Rocks for rim
  • Cotton candy ball on skewer to garnish
  • Garnish Cotton candy pop rock rim; cotton candy ball on skewer  

Shake ingredients together and serve up.