7 Restaurants Using TikTok Marketing to Engage with Customers

TikTok probably isn’t the first social network that comes to mind for a restaurant. However, it’s well worth a look.

It’s the fastest growing social network in the world with over one billion users, 700 million of which are active every month. Recent reports even suggest that the average engagement rate on TikTok is better than any other social platform – it’s addictive for users.

Interestingly, while Entertainment, Dance, and Pranks are the top three most viewed categories of content on TikTok, Recipes/Cooking is in the top 10. In other words, TikTok users are engaging with food-based content, meaning there is a big opportunity to grow your restaurant’s brand on the platform.

But what content works for restaurants on TikTok? I’ve analyzed the activity of seven popular restaurant chains with tons of TikTok followers to provide you with some tips and inspiration. Let’s take a look.

Side note: Check out my article about Restaurants Crushing Instagram Marketing here.

1. Sweetgreen

Kicking off the list is Sweetgreen – one of America’s most popular salad chains.

I started with Sweetgreen because they leverage the power of recipes to connect with their audience. As I mentioned in the intro, recipe content is super-popular on TikTok.

Whether it’s an insight into how they make their dressings, an instructional video on chopping ingredients or a recipe video for a signature salad, Sweetgreen’s TikTok is packed full of engaging video content that rides this trend.

Here is an example of how they make the cilantro vinaigrette:

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TikTok Recipe Video from Sweetgreen

Short recipe videos like this are pretty easy to make and show off the quality ingredients you use in your food.

2. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels

Who doesn’t love a pretzel?!? Auntie Anne’s is famous for making these succulent salty bread delights and they’ve taken to TikTok to let everyone know.

One tactic that stood out on Auntie Anne’s TikTok profile is the use of mini-games to increase engagement with followers. For example, this simple “Sweet vs Salty” poll gives viewers an opportunity to show off their personality via pretzel choice. You’d be surprised how passionate people get about this topic!

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TikTok Game by Auntie Anne’s

By offering a simple A or B option for your followers on a topic that is both interesting to them and aligned with your restaurant, you’ll see a significant boost in comments, likes, and shares on your TikTok videos.

Auntie Anne’s also uses TikTok giveaways to engage with their audience – like this collaboration:

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TikTok Giveaway by Auntie Anne’s

As with all social networks, there aren’t many tactics that explode engagement like contests. You can use ShortStack’s features that are tailored for Restaurants to get a TikTok giveaway up and running in no time.

3. Dunkin’

The next cab off the rank is Dunkin’ – one of the most recognizable restaurants in the world.

Dunkin’ uses the expansive reach of TikTok influencers to proliferate its brand on a regular basis. This video collaboration with @charlidamelio who has 126 million followers is just one example:

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TikTok Collaboration by Dunkin’

Of course, collaborating with major TikTok influencers and celebrities isn’t cheap. If you’re promoting a local restaurant and don’t have a large budget you could collaborate with smaller profiles that have a direct influence on your customers in the local area.

4. Baskin-Robbins

Baskin-Robbins doesn’t actually have enormous followership on TikTok – well, it’s not as big as you would expect, anyway. I put it down to the fact that they have only recently become active – since 2020. In saying that, the content they produce gets a lot of engagement and it won’t be long before those follower numbers are hitting new heights.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of TikTok Challenges – it’s one of the most prominent trending content types on the network. Basically, users post videos putting their own spin on a certain challenge categorized by a hashtag – think “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Baskin-Robbins got in on all the fun of the #cakeflipchallenge which has over 16 million views. Here’s one of their posts:

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TikTok Challenge by Baskin-Robbins

Head to the TikTok Discover page to find other challenges that might be relevant to your customers and get in on the fun!

5. Shake Shack

Shake Shack started out as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park back in 2001. Today it has a reputation for shakes, burgers, hot dogs, and much more. It also has over 77k followers on TikTok.

A prominent part of the Shake Shack brand is the green in its logo:

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Shake Shack’s TikTok Profile

If you ever go to a Shake Shack restaurant you’ll see that green color used in lights, on the packaging, and subtly placed all around you.

In a large majority of its TikTok videos, Shake Shack uses the iconic green color to highlight partnering captions.

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Shake Shack using its brand colors on TikTok

These comments are extremely common in TikTok videos and are shown to increase engagement by starting a conversation with viewers. If you can add an element of branding to each post, as Shake Shack has in this instance, it increases your brand recall and memorability.

6. Whataburger

With over 100k followers on TikTok, Whataburger is doing a lot of things well. But one tactic I want to highlight is the “messages to quotes” TikTok trend.

TikTok is all about trending content types that gain traction as everyone gives them a go. One example of that is turning your direct messages or even customer testimonials into quotes. Here is a video from Whataburger illustrating the concept:

Whataburger
TikTok Quote Video by Whataburger

This approach is a fun and entertaining way to highlight your customers – it’s user-generated content wrapped up in a trend – what a combination! I bet you have tons of customer commentary you could turn into a video, just find the right quotes and the video will pretty much make itself.

7. Pizza Hut

Last on the list is Pizza Hut. This famous worldwide pizza brand has some amazing engagement rates on TikTok largely due to its innovative approach. The Pizza Hut videos go beyond the typical restaurant-style content.

One example is Pizza Hut’s use of video effects. Here is a video that super-imposes a caricature of an astronaut with someone who is excited to get their pizza delivery:

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TikTok Video Effects by Pizza Hut

Then there’s this video, that combines similar effects but also utilizes the TikTok POV (point of view) trend:

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TikTok POV Trend by Pizza Hut

This style of video epitomizes what TikTok is all about – it’s fun and not meant to be serious. So have some fun with your videos and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the connection it creates with your customers.

Conclusion

When you’re planning your restaurant’s TikTok strategy, keep in mind that the top-performing content types are Entertainment, Dance, and Pranks. People go to TikTok to laugh, get involved in challenges, and escape from the seriousness of everyday life. So try and capture that in your content.

Be relatable and drop your guard. Don’t take yourself too seriously!

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