Thinking of starting your own food tour?
Food tours are certainly big business. People seem to be getting more interested in food all the time. Maybe its Masterchef or colourful Pinterest boards, whatever the reason there is no doubt that food is one of the growing trends in travel.
If your thinking of starting your own food tour, there’s relatively low barriers to entry, it’s easy to differentiate and it’s an area that many of are passionate about.
Food Tourism Statistics
According to the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) over a third of tourist spending is devoted to food and travellers are now more experienced, have more disposable income and more time to travel. Given all this, plus the fact that tourism numbers continue to rise internationally – this is a good time to be involved in food tourism. The UN study also found that for many tourists the cuisine of the destination is an important aspect in the quality of the holiday experience.
So, how do you go about starting a food tour?
1. Hobbyist Route
So you see the opportunity. You love food. But how do you start? Like most things in life, baby steps and leaps of faith are key. Start out with friends and family and test out the key aspects with them. This way you can build relationships with restaurants and food outlets without the pressure of worrying about your TripAdvisor rating.
2. Pick a Neighbourhood
Plodding your way around a city, with long walks between tastings is not very comfortable. People want to indulge their taste buds, not to go on a walking tour. It’s best to focus on a small part of the city, with a good selection of restaurants, cafes, markets, stalls or wherever you want to stop. This keeps the gaps between tastings short and your customers interested.
3. Pick a Niche
What’s your tour going to focus on? Pastry restaurants, Food trucks, Farmer’s markets or a mixture? If there is already competition in a particular area or you are operating in a big city, then it is probably best to focus on one. It means you can do one thing well, and more easily build brand recognition online and get known by the media, for that particular niche.
4. Snacks not Meals
While walking around on an empty stomach is terrible, walking on a full stomach is not much better. Remember to plan your tour, and it’s snacks not meals! Focus on one great item per location: the best bruschetta from one place or the best fish cakes from another. Share your dishes around and make sure your guests get to taste as many as possible, without filling up on one thing.
5. Get the Word Out & Keep Organised
Planning the tour will help things go a lot smoother and these tools can help you do just that. Eventbrite and Facebook are two tools that can be used when you are starting out to invite guests and keep track of who is coming and any last minute changes.
Create an email with key information that your guests will need, such as your contact info, the locations they will be going to, a map (Google Maps is great for this). Also suggest things customers should bring:
- Carry a bottle of water
- Wear comfortable walking shoes
- Bring some cash (not everywhere takes credit cards)
As I said earlier, test this strategy out initially with family and friends. Be militant about getting feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Set a schedule of tours over a period of two months and harass your friends to refer you to everyone they know. Make sure you keep asking for feedback, and before long you will have an efficient operation providing amazing food experiences. You should start generating some nice money too!
Make Your Food Tour A Business
You have started your food tour. You love it. But how do you make it into a real business, so you can leave your job?
To move beyond a hobbyist with referrals from friends and family, you need to think of your web presence. You can start by getting listings on TripAdvisor, Yelp and Gogobot, which will help you complete with the bigger tour companies. Take a look at the Tripadvisor rankings for New York. The second highest ranked tour is a Food Tour of the city. In fact most of the top ten tours are not mainstream experiences!
It’s easy to get listed on these platforms, so make sure to sign up for an account and ask your customers to leave you a positive review. Check out our previous blog post on some quick hacks to boost your listing.
By following these steps you should start seeing your tour transition from a part-time hobby to a potential full time business! Making this transition is all about, increasing your web presence and running a tight ship without compromising on quality.
Working out the right numbers required to make your tour profitable will also be a key consideration, particularly when you’re running a couple tours a week or even a day! This will probably mean hiring somebody, which means you want to be able to make money after paying them too.
Using an online booking system will also make your life a lot easier by freeing up your time, allowing you to scale up your business and make money. Using free tools initially are great. You may also want that personal touch with your customer when they are booking. As your business grows however, this will soon become unmanageable. Two big reasons for this are:
- Email hockey: It can take up to 10 emails going back and forth to confirm a booking. That’s a lot of emails to handle for a growing business and take up a huge part of your day
- The Leaky Pipe: Losing customers that want an immediate booking is like a dripping pipe, it feels like nothing initially but after some time this lost business can be pretty destructive
So, we have explored the different ways to start your own food tour. From starting out with family and friends to get feedback and iron out any potential problems. The next step is picking your niche and planning your route. Finally, it’s all about increasing your web presence. Start out by getting listings on the likes of Tripadvisor, Yelp and Gogobot to help you get found and getting your customers to leave you positive reviews. This is definitely an area of tourism that is on the up, with low barriers to entry. So if you are thinking of starting up your own food tour, follow these steps to help get you going today!