A restaurants guide to influencer marketing. Hint: Less is more, folks.

We sat down with Mitra Barber a fashion and lifestyle content creator who has been ruling the world of influencer marketing for over 5 years. For someone involved in the chaotic world of social media marketing, she exudes calmness. As the sole proprietor of Leopard Couture, and with experience working with restaurants as well as fashion, makeup, skin care, and travel, she had some very useful wisdom to impart.


Mitra begins by telling us what every brand should do, regardless of industry.

Mitra Barber: “Restaurants need to decide what their objective is before anything else. Are they opening a new spot, so the objective is to drive awareness? Are they launching a new menu, so the objective will be to find people who eat and enjoy that type of menu? Figure out what type of campaign you’re running and what your objectives are first.”

Authenticity, Trust, & Partnerships

Do you ever say no to offers from brands?

MB: “I say no ten times more than I say yes. I am my brand. I only believe in working with brands I love who also align with mine. I’ve built Leopard for 5 years, I’m not going to risk my reputation by promoting a product I don’t believe in, my followers wouldn’t have any trust in me. People gain trust by associating an influencer with a brand multiple times… You need to see a product at least seven times to develop trust in it.”

Here, Mitra is referring to the old marketing adage, The Rule of Seven. It’s been theorized that in order for a prospective consumer to gain trust in a marketing message they need to hear it or see it at least seven times before they will take action.

MB: “Like with my partnership with SoulCycle, I’ve posted about them multiple times, and people trust that I’m telling the truth about them. They see me engaging with their brand over and over and they know that I actually go to SoulCycle and absolutely love it! Influencers post a lot of stuff, if someone only sees a post once, they’re probably not going to choose that product. You need to associate your brand with that influencer multiple times before their following will engage with your brand. So, it’s smarter to have a smaller number of influencers post multiple times.

MB: “For me, with the brands I love and use their products all the time, I’ll sometimes post about them without being paid. Like, if I’m on vacation and I’ve been sent a sunscreen I really like — I’ll still post about it after the partnership is over because I’m still using it. I work with few brands on long term contracts because the trust thing is huge. I’m exclusive with my brands and that fosters trust with my audience. Restaurants, if they have a bunch of influencers working with them, it doesn’t look authentic. Choose quality over quantity because, in the long run, it’s going to pay off.”

Do Your Research

MB: “Do your research, you have to take the time. Don’t just pick anybody because they might not represent your brand the way you want them to. The way they write their captions, create their content, engage with their audience, their personality… It all matters. Find someone who fits. When you find the right fit, it’s going to be much more effective. Putting in the time to making sure their brand aligns with yours makes sense financially, and influencers can always tell when you don’t.”

IRL & Emails: How to Reach Out

Ok so, step one is deciding what your objective is, then researching influencers and their brand values. Then, how can restaurants find these influencers?

MB: “Don’t send out a mass email. It looks so bad. What restaurants can do is host an event, invite a bunch of influencers to come for dinner or cocktails and appies, or a menu launch. Whatever it is, you can invite a bunch of influencers to a section of your restaurant that you’ve blocked off and they’ll be shooting Instagram Stories naturally because they’re influencers. Then, thank them at the end with a gift card to come dine at your restaurant again — this step is important. It gives you a chance to follow up. So, after you’ve vetted them and met them in person you can get a sense of who they are, then you can reach out to your top choices to see if they would like to collaborate.”

MB: “Tips on reaching out, make sure your follow up email is specific to them. Influencers very much appreciate the specificity, it shows you’ve put the extra effort into caring, which makes them care more. It’s almost like a job application.”

Dream Big

What should restaurants look for when they search for influencers?

MB: “When you’re looking for influencers, don’t just look for their content creation skills, pay attention to their personality and vibe to make sure it aligns with your brand. With videos, blog posts, photos, etc. you need to see how they make their own content and if that will work for your brand. Food is really image-forward, so you’ll want to pick influencers who can create the content style you like. People think of Foodies right away, and even though their audience is already interested in food, sometimes lifestyle content creators can be a great choice as well. They do a bit of everything so the food posts definitely do stand out. As a food audience, people are following Foodies for the food posts, but your restaurant’s post can get lost in the noise. Just because I show fashion and makeup doesn’t mean my audience isn’t interested in food — everyone eats. Also, lifestyle content creators generally like to take beautiful photos.”

MB: “As a restaurant, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the basics of influencer marketing. If you ask the influencer for input to collaborate on your campaign, you might end up with interesting results. They’re the creative, the expert in their field, so give them some credit and ask them to help you, to work with you instead of for you. You’ll probably end up with something more than the basic IG Story.”

Shop Local

MB: “Find local influencers. If your location is in Vancouver, don’t get a Toronto influencer. Don’t even get a Langley influencer. Find someone as physically close to you as possible, the majority of their following most times will also live in the same zip code. It’s totally normal to ask where their top five cities are or for a screenshot of their demographics. Plus, people like supporting local.”


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Get the Most For Your Money

What else can restaurants ask for with their influencers?

MB: “Influencers can provide you with social posts, blogs, and media. You can ask the influencer you’re working with to send the photos they took or the videos they shot. You’ll probably end up paying an additional fee to obtain the photos but it won’t cost as much as a professional photographer. You can also have them be a part of a campaign you’re running. Say you’d like them to be a part of a video, they’re already an influential person — having them in a video you’ve created will give your video credibility. People will recognize the influencer and see it’s someone they already trust giving you credibility and transferring that trust to your brand.”

Any last words for our audience, Mitra?

MB: “If you can, you should always repost the content they posted.”

In a world where Influencer Marketing is the new normal, we’re thankful for Mitra Barber. Her dedication to honest, authentic marketing is refreshing. She’s as sweet as they come, and we love collaborating with her on projects.

You can follow Mitra’s journey with Leopard Couture here:

Instagram: @leopardcouture8
Facebook: Leopard Couture
Pinterest: @leopardcouture8
YouTube: Leopard Couture

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